Erik M's Profile
If, based on my pictorial report alone, you've decided that the pescado sarandeado at Mariscos El Kora de Nayarit is not your cup of tea, then perhaps you'd consider the other specialist I highlighted in that same report, namely Playas de Nayarit in South El Monte. Just like MEKdN, PdN (1) makes weekly trips to Mexico to procure the fish, and (2) grills their purchase over imported Mexican mesquite. Where PdN (greatly) differs, though, is in their marinade treatment, which involves a goodly amount of the fat, i.e., oil, you so greatly prize. [Mayonnaise is my guess but I'm far from certain.]
Anyway, I'm not sure what you meant when you said that MEKdN uses "a less fatty fish bought locally." You are guessing as much, or what? As I stated above (and in my initial report), Señor Lopez, the owner of MEKdN, makes weekly trips to Mexico to pick up the fish. And, I know this because he told me himself. [To put a very fine point on it, he told me that he is met by a driver from Nayarit in Tijuana. Does that make it "local" in your book? What have I missed?]
NB: I have not been to Mariscos El Kora de Nayarit or Playas de Nayarit in months. Truth be told, I have not been in Los Angeles in months. Five months to be exact.
My initial report:
My Playas de Nayarit photoset:
I haven't read, followed, or posted to these boards for several months now, so my sincere apologies in advance if I'm retreading old ground here:
1. Nayarit-style Pescado Sarandeado.
BOTH of the shops listed below make weekly trips to Mexico to p/u the fish--yes, you read that right--and BOTH of them grill over imported Mexican mesquite lump charcoal.
MARISCOS EL KORA DE NAYARIT:
-The fish for the sarandeado prep here include Corvina, Robalo <Snook>, Pargo <Sea Bream>, and Huachinango <Pac. Red Snapper>, depending on availability. Anyway, the photoset below tells the story. <If you view them in order, at least.> I highly, highly recommend the sarandeado prep, yes, but there are a few other treasures on the menu,
<Black Diamond Skiers: Consider adding a jigger of the inky-black mangrove cockle liquor to one of the chilled seafood cocktails, as pictured in the photoset above. It takes the flavour profile to a whole 'nother level...>
PLAYAS DE NAYARIT:
-The seafoods for the sarandeado prep here include Robalo (Snook) and Shrimp. In any case, the seasoning for the sarandeado prep is slightly more complex than that at M.E.K.D.N. as it involves not only salt, chile sauce, and citrus, but also a soy- or Maggi-type sauce. <An entirely authentic treatment according to my sources.> Anyway,
2. Pollo al Carbón.
MERCADO MEXICAN MARKET:
When it comes to grilled chicken I think that POLLO A LA BRASA is OK, and I think that DINO'S is great, but, for months now, I've passed on both for the stuff on offer at MERCADO MEXICAN MARKET in E.L.A. Like DINO'S, M.M.M. grills the rangier, more flavourful birds that I prefer, but, what really sets them apart--I think--is the live fire Mesquite grill. Does is hew to a particular Mexican regional culinary tradition? Probably not. But, with chicken this good, I don't care. In my book, there's not much that beats the resinous smack and tang of real mesquite grilling, and these guys are straight shooters. The light spice treatment and the tasty accompaniments--beans, tortillas, salsa rojo, etc.--is just that much gravy.
NB: The chicken is avalable Fri-Sun only. Anyway, now that I'm somewhat of a "regular," I've had very little trouble getting a bird straight from the the grill--not from the steam table inside--but YMMV.
I've never been particularly enamoured by the birria at EL PARIAN--to me, the consommé and the tabletop birria sauce taste acrid, whiny, and shrill--which is why I was excited to find better at BIRRIERIA TLAQUEPAQUE on Florence Ave. earlier this year.
Why do I like it so? Well...
(1) The assortment of cuts incl. moist interior meat, *whole* meaty ribs, and braised/bronzed crusty bits, (2) the consommé is deeply-centered and mellow w/ restrained notes of chile and dried spice, (3) the tabletop birria sauce has earthy notes of coffee and ash, (4) the garnish array incl. not only raw onion, cilantro, and lime, but grilled onion slivers, toasted/dried chiles de árbol, and fresh green chiles de árbol, (5) the tortillas here are handmade, (6) orders incl. a bowl of luscious, porky refried beans <topped w/ fried chips made from those same handmade tortillas>, and (7) there's tepache on tap. <smile>
In any case, it's close, very close--much closer than EL PARIAN and a number of Eastside shops I've tried--to the Jaliscan spreads I crossed the border to sample earlier this year.
BTW, speaking of tepache, and in case you haven't already noticed, there's a tejuino vendor who sets up shop at the west end of the Sears bldg. at Olympic & Soto most days. She doesn't gild her version with sherbert/nieve--claiming that most of the Mexicans hereabout don't care for the stuff--but the base product is REALLY REALLY tasty all the
Look close, her sign reads, "TEJUINO FRESCO ESTILO GUADALAJARA."
4. Hue-Style Food.
KIM HOA HUE RESTAURANT:
Over the course of a few months I've managed to try a large swath of the menu at this Hue specialist in South El Monte, and I have to say that there's little that I *haven't* been impressed with. <OK, so the papaya salad is lacklustre and the bun bo hue contains too much MSG, but, hey.> Excellent banh creations, excellent cured meats <Hue-style nem chua, tre, cha Hue, etc.>, and the best version of Mi Quang I've found on *this* side of the Pacific. <I'd say the same for the com hen, but, hey, this place notwithstanding, I've never seen com hen in the U.S. before.>
BTW, speaking of nem chua, I stumbled on another fantastic, all-natural version <i.e., no MSG-based souring agent used> in Chinatown, of all places. I'm talking about the Vietnamese Restaurant and Deli, THIEN HUONG, in Far East Plaza. If you look closely you'll see three different versions in their cooler case, (1) the standard, "nude," dice-shaped pieces, (2) the standard, *leaf-wrapped* pieces, and (3) thin, foil-wapped, domino-shaped packets which--surprise, surprise--can be purchased by the piece. It's these last ones you want. <Oddly enough, according to the shopkeeper, they're the only ones which *aren't* made in-house.> They're brilliant things, with a sweet, clean flavour which quickly gives way to a blast of black pepper heat. If it means anything to you, they remind me of the housemade nem chua that BANH MI CHO CU in Westminster puts out. 'Cept I like these even better. And, they're, like, what, 30 miles closer. Anyway, I've found the restaurant food at this place to be average at best. <They're actually from Hue, so I was hoping against hope...> If you want to try something, the bun rieu is perhaps the best of the lot, but I think that you'll find the need to doctor it up with a load of mam tom.
Oh, gosh, speaking of Hue stuff, and in case you don't know already, they make a real sharp, rustic, homestyle version of bun bo hue at BANH XEO QUAN in Rosemead. It has (1) a delicate and aromatic pork-based broth, (2) a hand-crafted, roughly-textured, Hue-style chile oil which is served on the side, (3) a garnish plate which includes shredded rau muong, i.e., water spinach, and (4) no discernable trace of MSG.
I've yet to try anything else on the menu--which is only five items long--but I will. I will.
<I know a lot of people rave about the bun bo hue at places like NEM NUONG KHANH HOA and NEM NUONG NINH HOA--heck, they were the first ones that *I* heard about--but I gotta tell you that I was really disappointed with them both. They're made in the Southern-style, specifically--Nha Trang, according to the staff--and like any number of Southern Vietnamese spins on traditional Central and Northern Vietnamese dishes in my opinion, they put the emphasis on the wrong syllable, as it were. In this case it means that they dramatically punch up the broth's chile heat and oil quotient, and, in the process, they obscure--if they don't obliterate--some of the dish's more nuanced and subtle expressions. Oh, and they both use a f88kload of MSG. Rant Over.
If you name a Pho specialist in the SGV there's a very good chance I've been there, but, I was DEEPLY underwhelmed with the scene until I crossed Rosemead Blvd. and entered South El Monte earlier this year. Generally speaking, I found the pho shops in this part of the Valley to be remarkably good, but the Vietnamese community in the area--which appears to be an even-steven combination of very recent immigrants and more culturally-conservative old-timers--probably wouldn't have it any other way. Here, the broths tend to be well-structured creations with real body, and they sing of tail (ox) and bone. And--unlike their counterparts on the west side of the Valley, not a one of them struggles under the weight of an overwrought, unnecessarily-complicated--hell, "confused" is the word--bouquet. Deliberate and assured, they're confident, all. No, you won't find any of that spindly-legged, brittle, and MSG-laden crap here. <Yes, I'm pointing at you, GOLDEN DELI and PHO 79, but I'm also pointing at PHO HA, PHO SUPER BOWL, PHO PASTEUR, PHO NGUYEN HOANG, PHO 54, SAIGON FLAVOUR, and VIETNAM HOUSE...> In any event, the South El Monte pho scene is on fire right now with 3 relative long-timers <PHO HIEN-MAI, PHO HIEN, and PHO HUYNH>, 1 relative newcomer <PHO FILET>, 2 *brand new* shops celebrating grand openings <PHO MINH and PHO HONG LONG>, and another shop still on the way <PHO KIM>.
FWIW, for kicks, really, here are my own current rankings in REVERSE order of preference:
PHO HONG LONG--A new specialist at the far end of the strip, nearly at Santa Anita. <In the old Pho 999 space>
Their specialty is pho suon bo, or beef noodle soup with beef short ribs. <It strikes me as more of a novelty, but it'll likely give a gaggle of Yelpers real wood, I'm sure.> Anyway, I was underwhelmed by the stuff, but I've yet to try a straight ahead bowl of pho bo.
PHO HUYNH--While leagues better than most of its counterparts in Alhambra, San Gabriel, etc., the broth here is perhaps the weakest of the El Monte bunch, tasting flat, wan, and overly-sweet after just a few sips. In any event, it's one of the most popular shops in the neighbourhood, and, relatively speaking, it appears to draw the highest percentage of young Vietnamese, including women. It's also the most spiffed-up and modernly-appointed shop, but, hey, you draw your own conclusions. Despite my misgivings, I'm quite fond of the cuts of meat at this place--especially the brisket and the thinly-shaved tendon--so I can very easily get by. <Nuoc beo can correct a lot of flaws in my book.> Oh, FWIW, the nam, or "brisket" cut here--shown in the close-up photo at the link below--is true brisket as Americans know it, not the ngau nam, or "fatty beef plate," which most SoCal shops seem to use.
PHO HIEN--These folks make a supple, soft broth w/ good body and a light, delicate flavour and aroma. <Highly-clarified stuff, it's a good candidate for the addition of nuoc beo.> Good quality meats here. I'm especially fond of the meatballs. No, they're not homemade--I'm still looking for a pho joint which makes their own meatballs; Chicago had two of them the last time I checked--but they're a good deli product all the same.
<Black Diamond Skiers: The house special here includes ox pizzle and egg.>
PHO FILET--Always mobbed up, this shop claims to have been the first in the area to offer pho bac, or Northern-style pho w/ "filet mignon." Anyway, whether you take that option or not, a bowl of pho here is a veritable bloodfeast. I mean, there's no beating around the bush here, this is pho to make it absolutely clear that an animal gave its life for your sins. <smile> The broth is brawny, beefy, and rich, with an impossibly heady aromatic bouquet. This is pho for folks who insist on being slapped in the mouth with flavour. I'll admit, there's a time and place for it in my pho rotation, but it's almost 180 degrees in the opposite direction from the spartan, spare style I'm so crazy about. <Oh, FWIW, their ca ri ga, or "chicken curry," has a sizeable fan base. It's good stuff, the best I've found in the SGV so far, but I'll admit that I haven't looked real hard.>
<Black Diamond Skiers: As you can see in the close-up photo at the link below, PHO FILET'S "tai" cut is true sirloin, not the industry standard, eye-of-round. If you are a stickler about rare beef cuts clouding or muddying the broth, you may want to "cook" them yourself in a separate bowl of plain broth. Both the sirloin and the filet are bloody, bloody cuts of meat.>
PHO HIEN-MAI--This shop fashions an EXCELLENT, beefy and full-bodied pho broth in a classic, throwback style. A goodly amount of residual oil lends viscosity and gives the broth a rich mouthfeel. Unfortunately, this place is presently closed for "remodeling." <Cough***The heath department gave PHO HIEN_MAI a 57/100 score a month back, and then went on to close them down last week***Cough> Here's hoping that little changes whenever they manage to reopen. <Me, I'll admit that I was charmed by the shoddy, shabby environs. If you've ever had the pleasure of eating "close to the street" in Vietnam, or anywhere else in S.E.A. for that matter, you can relate, I'm sure.>
PHO MINH--In my book, the stripped-down and spare beef broth at this spanking new shop takes the SGV pho game to a whole 'nother level. This is pho for those folks in search of cerebral, as opposed to merely carnal pleasures. <"Liquid soul" is really the only way I know to describe it. My first taste, a few weeks ago, was like reconnecting with a part of me I never knew I'd lost, let alone had.> Anyway, until earlier this week, when they started effing with the recipe, PHO MINH had the best bun bo hue I've encountered this side of BUN BO HUE SO 1 in Westminster. <Here's hoping that they can right that ship.> Oh, and the com tam plate--pictured in the photoset linked below--is definitely worth checking out. I hate going hyperbolic on a place, especially when it's so new, but that com tam assortment is the best, most well-groomed assembly I've encountered in L.A. so far.>
Anyway, if you get over El Monte way, and you haven't already, check out one of the VietCoffee cafes in the immediate area. There's CAFE QUYNH NHU in the same plaza as MY HANH, and then there's CAFE XINH XINH in the plaza on the SW corner of Rosemead and Garvey. I really like CAFE QUYNH NHU'S wrap-around lanai-style patio, but I've been hanging out at CAFE XINH XINH this week b/c it's a superior venue for watching the UEFA2008 matches. <Incidentally, I prefer both of these shops to the three others I've been to in the SGV, i.e., CAFE QUYNH NHU and JAZZ CAFE on Del Mar, and CAFE WINDOW, around the corner on Valley Blvd. <CAFE QUYNH NHU is often too smoky for me, and, hey, I smoked unfiltered Lucky Strikes for nearly ten years, so I *know* from smoky; CAFE WINDOW is often filled with Viet teenyboppers and thugwannabees, which is amusing for, like, two minutes; and JAZZ CAFE, well JAZZ CAFE is just too grim.>
OK, I'm getting tired of typing, but I might come back soon to share more finds. The truth is that I eat out two times a day, almost every day that I'm in town--and I make every effort to eat at *at least* one new place every one of THOSE days--so I could go on like this for, well, DAYS. Here's some stuff I might do next time...
LA CARIDAD, the Cuban place in Historic Filipinotown <cubanos/medianoches, daily specials like pollo asado, soups, games of dominoes, etc.>
EL AMANECER SALVADOREñO, the Salvadoran place on 8th in K-Town <pupusas, esp. revueltas and loroco, chicharrónes en tomate, caldo de gallina--one of the best chicken soups I've had--carne asada, costillas de res, etc.>
LAS MORELIANAS, The new Michoacan-style carnitas specialist at the GCM <pick-your-cut-any-cut, bacon studded frijoles puercos, chicharrónes prensado, etc.>
PALATERIA LA MICHOACANA <Small-batch artisinal ice creams made--40 at a time--with whole milk and seasonal fruits, incl. jamaica, plum, coffee, vanilla w/ whole raisins, immature (green) guava, etc.>
SZECHUAN BEST, which I first visited w/ TonyC earlier this year <They've got three dishes currently vying for space on my Top Plates of 2007/8 list...steamed spareribs w/ yams, minced beef mapo tofu w/ crispy soybeans, and spicy, sliced/cold pork belly.>
MALO <Has anyone elaborated on their assortment of single-village mexcals?>
SEVEN GRAND <Damian's unique tequila and gin genius...>
Oh, yeah, a couple of Gujarati joints, a couple of new Thai places...
In any case, if the mods kill my lights, or if I don't get back here soon, you can always check my Flickr profile to see which sets I've made publicly available. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'll add that link to my Chowhound prorfile right now. Just give me a sec...
...OK, I just had a coffee and I'm feeling a second wind...m-u-s-t push on...here are a few more things I should probably add while I'm here...
<I know, I know, nothing new or revolutionary, but I've had a number of tasty dishes here all the same. And, hey, even if there isn't anything distinctly Guerrerense about them, their pork chops in green chile sauce with housemade tortillas are worth talking about.>
<ORD is virtually indistinguishable from a number of cafes which have popped up in college areas across Thailand in the past few years. At any rate--and whether you care for it or not--the cooking at ORD accurately represents the new face of Thai cookery in Thailand, which is governed by parsimony as much as anything...>
Oh, speaking of Thai stuff, here are a few things:
1) If you are a fan of the Chiang Mai-style, curry-flecked pork sausage called sai ua, you've got to try the stuff at SWEET LEMONGRASS in N. Hollywood. I admit, I used to be keen on the version that SPICY BBQ made, but, these days, and along with a number of other things--kaeng khae, khao soi, laap khua, laap thawt--they've resorted to taking some unacceptable "shortcuts" in my book. Two of the *most* unacceptable being (1) dosing the khao soi w/ non-dairy creamer instead of coconut creme, and (2) switching from natural to artificial casings in the case of the sausage. Anyway--back to SWEET LEMONGRASSS--the demand for the stuff in the Thai community is so great at this point that it extends to neighbouring states, and they're now cranking out hundreds of pounds each month. If you go, have Nung translate the rest of the Northern Thai menu for you. <Or, if you know where I hang these days, you can find mine online. And, if you don't, DON'T ask me here, please. I'm not in the business of advertising.> They do a few Northern-style dishes better than anyone else these days.
FWIW, here's a picture of the khao soi at SPICY BBQ for your viewing displeasure. <It was taken on February 24th of this year> :
As I said above, the white stuff on top is, er, was non-dairy creamer. <I saw it poured in with my own eyes.> And, to think, Jonagold was hyping this stuff--"probably the definitive version in Los Angeles"--just two weeks back...
2) Speaking of Northern Thai food and laap khua <"cooked" laap>, head on over to PAILIN sometime and try Andy's wife's version. <It's not on the menu, so you'll have to ask for it.> I still refer to my initial tasting notes from 03.08 when recommending it to friends. <They're good for a laugh, if nothing else.> As you can see I got *really* lathered up : "Craggy, spicy, smoky...topped with fried red onion slivers. Cabbage wedge, frilly Napa leaves, mint, laksa leaves, and nasturtium leaves. The irregularly chopped pork had been intensely seasoned and combined with liver, fresh skin, and crispy rinds. Wonderful contrast of textures and tastes. Some pork cuts/bits were crunchy-crisp and dry, while others were moist and oily. Some pork cuts/bits had little if any seasoning, while others had it in spades. A primitive stunner. Intense. Insane." Anyway, if you go, and if they've got 'em in
3) The owner of the hugely popular--at least in the local Thai community--Thai cafe, SIAM SUNSET, sold off the SGV shop some months back to focus exclusively on the Sunset Blvd. operation. As a result, the place has been ever-so-slightly "spiffed up" <e.g., new awning> and the hours of operation have been extended. It's now open until 10pm 6 nights a week. Anyway, I'm not real keen on the dark soy-based sauce which accompanies it, but their khao man kai <Thai-style "Hainan" chicken and rice> is still the best I've found. <Not only do I like it better than any other Thai resto version I've found, but I like it better than the highly-touted versions at SAVOY KITCHEN, DONG NGUYEN, and PHO GA too. The meat is bouncy, and pink-at-the-bone, not falling apart and steamed-all-to-hell...> And, hey, if you ever wake up one day with a death wish, their FRIED version, i.e., khao man kai thawt, would not be a bad way to go. Lacy tempura-ish batter over that same *just-barely-cooked* chicken...unh. <I'm not sure if this last one is on the printed menu, but it's on the Thai language menu board. Right alongside standouts like khao khluk kapi, i.e., shrimp paste rice w/ sweet pork and omelette, and kuaytiaw khaeh tao-huu yat sai, i.e., noodle soup with pork-stuffed tofu cubes which are meant to be "picked out" of the broth and dipped in the accompanying sauce.>
4) After a recent Songkran-related sojourn to Tailandia--incl. a jaunt to Isaan--I've been fixing my attention on the new-ish Isaan specialist CHAI TOONG (aka CHAI THUNG) on Vermont@SMB. In addition to an English language menu (and an everchanging roster of specials which are written in Thai on whiteboard), there's a hand-written 30-item list of fairly obscure Thai <Isaan, etc.> offerings tucked away behind the register. Hell, if you know your Isaan food, don't stop there, they'll make you anything you want. Papaya salad with khanom jiin noodles, salted and fire-roasted whole fish, Isaan-style tom yam w/ pork ribs, dishes with ant eggs, etc. <I'm still working on them to make real-deal Isaan-style plaa som--which is rice-stuffed fish left to ferment in the sunlight for a few days--this summer.... Anyway, like I said before, if you know where I'm hanging out online these days, then you know where to find my trans. Again, if you don't know, DON'T ask me here, please. I'm not in the business of advertising.>
5) There are a number of items on the Thai language menu board at SAPP COFFEE SHOP which are not listed on the English language menu. Some of the best stuff, actually. Anyway, and only for what it may be worth, I'm particularly fond of the more haimish, homestyle stuff like khii mao pet phak bung, or "drunkard's style" roast duck with water spinach, and phat sa-taw kung sap, or "stir-fried sator beans with minced shrimp."
<With the exception of the shrimp cocktail--which is awesome good--there's nothing mind-blowing about this little marisceria, but I think it's worth mentioning all the same. They're really, really great folks, serving solid food, and they run one of the most fun establishements I've come across in E.L.A. I should warn you, though, the Chivas Club is an object of worship here, right alongside the Virgen de San Juan de los Lagos...>
Oh, since I've now recommended three different establishments for chilled shrimp cocktails--and just for kicks--I may as well share my current rankings on that front, and in REVERSE order of preference. With the exception of the first one--The EL MAR AZUL TRUCK--I tried most of them more than once--AND TOOK QUICK NOTES/PICS--so this is at least a half-assed attempt--I said, "at least"--on my part to provide objective data. <smile>
-EL MAR AZUL TRUCK (N. Figueroa @ Sycamore Grove Park
Notes: The shrimp were flaccid. <Likely damaged by frost/handling.> Otherwise, the list of principal base ingredients says it all-->highly-processed/artificially-flavoured dollar store crap. As my father the farmboy-turned-Large-Animal-Vet-turned-Internist was fond of saying, "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."
-MARISCOS LAS BRISAS (E.C.E.Chavez @ N. State)
Notes: The quality/freshness of the shrimp was borderline. Base liquid was salty but otherwise bland. Vegetables were anemic/limp. This was low-rent stuff.
-MARISCOS SINALOA (York Blvd., Highland Park)
Notes: Base product had little if any taste, requiring *a lot* of adjusting with lime, salt, hot sauce, etc. Even so, it remained rather unremarkable.
-MARISCOS LINDA TRUCK (@ E. Olympic Blvd.)
Notes: Shrimp were relatively small and the portion was relatively meager. Poaching liquid was clean and light, but the chopped tomatoes and onions were nearly flavourless/cottony. Hey, didn't I say, "No Ketchup"?
-MARIA'S SEAFOOD (@ GCM, Downtown)
Note: These days the shrimp are often flaccid/mushy, but MARIA'S remains on my roster even if only for the option of a freshly-shucked oyster cocktail. For whatever reason, they are able to souce a better oyster product than any other pescaderia/marisceria I've tried.
VIA-MAR (N. Figueroa, Highland Park)
Notes: Nice, briny/tangy base liquid incl. whirred/blended tomatoes. Novel. Chopped veggies were of good and plentiful. Shrimp were firm and abundant.
EL JATO (E. 4th, E.L.A.)
Notes: Excellent, briny base liquid, epecially when ordered "al natural," or without ketchup. <The house salsa makes for an interesting addition to the cócteles.> The shrimp rank at the top of the pack in terms of freshness/firmness, size, *and* portion.
PLAYAS DE NAYARIT (E. Garvey Ave., Rosemead)
Notes: Clean, bracing, briny base liquid, especially when ordered "al natural," or without ketchup. The shrimp ranked right up there with those served at EL JATO in terms of freshness and relative portion size.
MARISCOS EL KORA DE NAYARIT (Huntington Dr. N., Happy Valley)
Notes: Superlative base liquid <which, according to the owner's son, was made from an assortment of seafoods and spices>, epecially when ordered "al natural," or without ketchup. The shrimp ranked right behind those served at EL JATO. Slightly smaller in size, and slightly fewer in quantity, that's all. Cucumber was notable, even if only for the reason and that it had been minced but *not* peeled, lending a nice bitter note. Red onion was also notable, even if only for the fact that it was the sweeter red variety.
NB: On more than one ocassion I've been offered a small dish of the inky-red "liqour" from the blood clams to further enhance my cóctel. YMMV.
<Unlike so many of Señor Oro's Mexican food picks over the years, the cemitas at CEMITAS POBLANAS ELVIRITA #1 in E.L.A. are every bit as good as advertised. <Better even.> Anyway, I've tried a number of sandwich combos at this point, but I continue to gravitate toward the headcheese/queso blanco combo with chipotle chiles and the pierna
<Every one? Yes, I tend to keep track of things like that.>
VILLAGE IDIOT--Pub Burger. CTO. Good meat, but I'm not keen on the over-sized bun and the overly-sweet relish.
APPLE PAN--Steak/Tillamook Burger. CTO. I've loved it for years. It's in a class by itself, AFAIAC.
HUNGRY CAT--Pug Burger. CTO. The various parts are unbeatable, but it fails miserably as an ensemble piece.
IRV'S--Cheese Burger. CWO. Freshly squished meat and an unbeatable SoCal b-stand atmosphere. A long-time fave.
MOLLY'S--Cheese Burger. CWO. Nice vibe, but the burgers are just plain rude.
SEAN'S--Chili Cheese Burger. CWO. As CCBs go, they're better than most, but it pales in comparison to JAY'S.
MASA--Spanish Burger. CMO. Did you recommend this? If so, my regard for your opinion has slipped considerably.
LUCKY DEVIL'S--Kobe Burger/Tallgrass Burger. CMO. I'm not wasting any more bandwidth on this place.
25 DEGREES--Asst. Cheese Burgers. CTO. I LOVE IT with, like, twenty exclamation marks.
COMME ÇA--Comme Ça Burger. CTO. Mooooo! One of the brillest in the bunch.
PETE'S--The Hellman Burger. CTO. Dites-moi, aimez-vous le saveur de Liquid Smoke? Il est dans la sauce...
FRAîCHE--ROYALE W/ CHEESE. CTO. Opinion withheld on principle. <I REALLY, REALLY don't like this place.>
YUCA'S--Cheese Burger. CWO. It's close to home; I can't complain.
TOMMY'S (Bev/Rampart)--Chili Cheese Burger. Just kidding. I was finished with this place years ago.
YE RUSTIC INN--Myrtle Burger. CTO. Love it. A Five-Star Drunken Master.
MOM'S--Soul/Cheese Burger. CWO. SOOOOOOOOOOUL!!! GOOOOOOOOOOAL!!! <Props to TonyC>
HAWKIN'S H.O.B. (Altadena)--Cheese Burger. CTO. Masterful, muscular F-U-N-K.
CASSELL'S--Cheese Burger. CTO. DIY condiment bar? Housemade dressing? Potato salad? ROCK ON.
BLUE DAHLIA CAFE--Short Rib Stuffed Burger. CMO. 100 kinds of WRONG. "But, Yelpers love it," said my waiter.
PIE 'N BURGER--Cheese Burger. CTO. Ugh...that sauce is positively sebaceous. "Coke and a tuna sando, please!"
FATHER'S OFFICE--Duh. A onetime fave, but the hype/scene have sucked every oz. of pleasure out of it for me.
TAYLOR'S--Prime Cheese Burger. CTO from fresh-ground steak trimmings? Fresh Potato Chips? I'm lovin' it.
R BAR--Cheese Burger. CTO. An employee rec. Enh.
REDWOOD--Redwood Cheddar Burger. CTO. Mmmmmm....tastes like lighter fluid....Mmmmmm.
BOWERY--St. Andre Cheese Burger. CTO. Brill, but I'm through with it until/unless they lose the fing muffin.
BAR MARMONT--"Damn Good Burger". CTO. Tres, tres brill. Better than the Roquefort Burger @ THE SPOTTED PIG.
CORA'S--Wagyu Beef Burger. CTO. Brill, but it's the atmosphere as much as anything with this one.
THE YORK--Cheddar Burger. CTO. Spicy Harissa Aoili? Give me a break. And, what's with the ice-cold beer?
15--"15" Burger. CTO. As burgers go, I'm not keen on Kobe beef OR Gruyere cheese. I LOVE that bun, though.
SAM'S HOFBRAU--Sam's Kick Ass Burger. CTO. For some reason, I'm having a hard time recalling this one...
DINO'S (N. MAIN)--Cheese Burger. CWO. The meat has the taste and texture of prefab. Gyro cone meat. BlEcH.
NB: I opt for house/signature styles/sizes whenever possible. That most often means ordering "singles," not "doubles," "standards," not "extras," and sure-as-hell- nevar-super-sized or "monster" creations. When it's an option, I order burgers "rare plus" or, "medium rare," and while I generally like mustard, mayo (or "spread"), pickles, onions, tomatoes, and lettuce on my burgers, I AVOID KETCHUP AT ALL COSTS. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot--if it's at all possible--I opt to dine ON-SITE, NOT on-the-run, in-the-whip, back-at-the-crib, etc., so YMMV. <smile>
Whew. That was a lot of typing. What a ramble. Hope it makes some sense.
P.S. Happy Father's Day, Dad. I miss you more than ever.
Yes, but can those establishments actually fulfill the OP's request? Having lived in Chicago for fifteen-odd years, and having been to both Taco Burrito Palace #2 and Burrito King numerous times, I am fully confident in Burrito King. Whether I even care for the place (I don't, generally speaking) doesn't matter, as I wasn't asked for my OPINION.
I ask you, is there something so terribly wrong with helping a fellow hound---transplant or otherwise---find exactly what he or she wants? Or, must every one of these types of requests be met with an ego-/ethno-centric reëducation campaign?
No! Say it isn't so!
Tell me, did you learn the "hard" way?
In any case, I had friends in town from Chicago just last week and Ita-Cho was given serious consideration. I'm glad that we didn't follow through...
I will admit to missing certain foodstuffs since moving from Chicago last fall--pizzas from Marie's, moles from Sol de Mexico, Indo-Pak grills from Khan's, *anything* and *everything* from Vie--but burritos from Taco Burrito Palace #2 do not make the list. In fact, an honest-to-goodness shiver ran down my spine when I came across the words, "Taco Burrito Palace #2," in your post. That place...that food...that crowd...yeesh. In my personal cosmology, its offshoot--aptly named, "Taco Burrito Palace #3"--resides in the 3rd Circle of Hell, right next door to (yet) another Maxwell Street Express.
Anyhow, I do have a constructive suggestion for you:
Go to Burrito King on Sunset @ Alvarado and tell them that you want an "Ultimate" burrito "without the rice." Then walk over to the side window and watch the grill man as he assembles the whole thing on the flattop, just as you describe. You want salsa verde on it? Just ask. You want extra lettuce? Just ask. You want it without onions? Just ask. You want it crisp? Just ask. Seriously, dudes are champ.
I'm nearly certain that you will walk away a happy man.
Oh, and a tip: try the stew-style machaca. It's better than any burrito meat filling I ever found in Chicago...
I visited LAX-C with TonyC for the first time this morning and I'm inclined to agree: it's not a dining destination per se, but instead a convenience for those folks who are shopping the market or happen by. Anyway, I think that the outdoor vendors you reference are only there on weekends.
FWIW, we espied the following:
-khanom krok (toasted coconut fritters)
muu saam chan krawp (deep-fried three-layer pork)
I know a number of local restaurateurs and commercial vendors who are forgoing participation this year because of the increased entry/rental fees. It remains to be seen whether many smaller operators will take the plunge.
As for the "First Annual International Curry Festival" outlined in your link, I'm predicting a bust. I've personally reviewed the solicitation materials/fee scales and the barriers to entry are both numerous and steep.
P.S. There is a relatively new Thai "mini-market" on Western Avenue just south of Hollywood Blvd where, for the past few weekends, they've been vending freshly-fried bananas (kluay thawt) as part of their "Grand Opening" promotion. In any event, they're great folks with a nice little shop so I'd encourage a stop anytime.
Thai Mini Market
P.P.S. The o.p. might also be interested in checking out the sweets (khanom) vendor and the curry vendor which set up shop at Silom Market on weekends. I'm not much for sweets, but I can vouch for the curry vendor's wares. Kaeng Tai Plaa, Kaeng Som, Kaeng Khii-Lek, etc. Oh, and you'll often find still-warm tapioca/pork dumplings (saku sai muu), minced-meat salad (laap), etc., on the shelves which precede the checkout counter.
"... and i went w/ a CH'er who is a regular."
Man up and call me out by name, TC.
At any rate, if you will recall, the night of your, ahem, single, solitary visit was particularly dreadful. The rain was coming down in buckets and the line of folks waiting to get in was very nearly out the door...
"If you want a richer flavor they have some basturma that has more fat, like prosciutto."
The basturma at Sahag's is made from beef top loin (i.e., New York strip) trimmed to varying degrees, so it's truly more akin to bresaola.
If it's the porcine funk and creaminess of prosciutto you are after, he's got some off-off-menu imported Ukrainian fatback which he seasons as cures in the same manner as beef basturma.
Pure white. Pearlescent. Insane.
Furthering our pursuit--or further killing it, as the case might be--I stopped in at Nayarit Meat Market on Florence Ave. in Bell the other day to ask for leads on wood-grilled pescado sarandeado in the L.A. area. [The rotating sign outside advertised mojarra frita so I thought, what-the-heck.] Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Then again, they didn't know from your place in the SFV.
Please report back if you get over that way...
I've been on a similar search since moving here from Chicago last fall. There, I'd make monthly visits to Las Islas Marias, an excellent Nayarit-style seafood specialist best known for langostinos a la plancha, and which prepared pescado sarandeado over real hardwood charcoal.
Don Genaros Plaza on Whittier (~Ditman) offers pescado sarandeado by the pound, accompanied by rice and beans. Unfortunately, it's prepared over a gas fire, and, IMO, they do a poor job even with that.
To date I know of only one other Nayarit-style seafood specialist. It's a hut, really-- without any name as far as I can tell--located on Marengo across from USC Hospital, but the only whole fish prep they offer is mojarra frita.
Don Genaros Plaza
If you are going to broaden the scope to include the SGV then I will throw in Hong Kong Supermarket on Garfiled, just north of Garvey.
I spotted them in the tank just yesterday, kicking and screaming.
127 N Garfield Ave.
Bear in mind that Ita-Cho is a Japanese-style "pub," or izakaya, and does not offer much in the way of raw fish. In fact, the raw fish offerings are limited to sashimi, and only 1-2 selections each day.
As for Hirozen and Sushi Ike--which I think are fairly comparable in terms of quality--the difference is really an issue of style. Whereas Hirozen admits for a good amount of contemporary influence, Sushi Ike does not.
My brother began purchasing from BTH during his militant vegetarian period. [These days he's merely hardcore.] Back then he'd have BTH whip up custom batches of *fish sauce-free* kimchi. I admit, I was skeptical at first, but it was far better than anything I could find at Hannam, etc.
My brother has been buying kimchi from Beverly Tofu House for years. He places his order over the phone and they ring him back when the kimchi is ready.
Is "fresh" the right word? <smile>
2717 W Olympic Blvd.
"If the rationale is rising prices, I would have liked to see some acknowledgment on the menu that prices are rising and they unfortunately have to shrink the size of the shake, fries, etc. I think they owe that much courtesy to the regulars who order expecting one size only to get something else."
Believe me, I took exception with the surreptitious way that this issue was handled. And, I was doubly chafed when I sought confirmation from the waitstaff. It was acknowledged, but only behind a whole lot of hemming and hawing.
P.S. What's with the French's (only) mustard and store bought mayo?
Premium-grade beef burgers
And, what's with the buns? They've shrunk the burgers but the buns remain unchanged. On my most recent visit I had to lift the top bun to see the burger underneath. For a minute there, I thought that I'd been short-sheeted. LOL!!
Take your pick: smaller portion sizes or higher prices.
L.D. chose to address the issue of rising material costs, not by increasing prices, but by shrinking portion sizes. I ask you, would you really have it the other way around?
BTW, you forgot to mention that, as of last week, the fries are no longer bundled with the burgers but are strictly an a la carte item. FWIW, you also forgot to mention that the burger patties have been downsized. <see footnote>
At any rate, I've been to L.D. a few times since it opened, most recently last week. The ruckus over portion sizes aside, I fail to see the appeal. IMO,there are far better burgers and fries on offer in the same general vicinity, e.g., The Hungry Cat, 25 Degrees, and The Bowery. I'm done with L.D.
<footnote> I initally thought that the thin, puckish burger was limited to the Tallgrass variant, but I've since noticed that the Kobe burger has been downsized too. Now, it's nearly impossible for them to cook ANY burger "rare-ish," let alone "medium rare." Hell, they don't even pretend with the Tallgrass beef burger anymore: it is only offered "medium." LOL!! Grass-fed beef cooked "medium" is no better than a car tire cooked the same way.
Here are four proposed Southern Thai-style menus for two-three diners:
a. kaeng khiaw-waan khai “Mang-kon” : green curry with egg-yolk-stuffed fish balls
a. phat luuk taw “Meuang Khon” : stir-fried sator beans with shrimp, pork, and squid
a. neua phat kii-mao "songkhla" : spicy beef stir-fry with lemongrass,
a. phak bung fai daeng : stir-fried water spinach with dried chile and yellow beans
I've (generally) laid the menus out in order of spiciness/heat, moving from lowest (Menu 1) to highest (Menu 4). I've also (generally) laid the menus out in terms of their "exotic-ness," moving from least (Menu 1) to most (Menu 4). At any rate, nothing will kill you, I promise. <smile>
Bear in mind that each menu set involves one curry, one deep-fried or stir-fried dish, one soup, and one yam, or "salad" type dish. In the Thai manner, all of the dishes are served and eaten together. [Soup and salad elements are not "courses" in the Western sense!] I'd encourage you to graze at leisure, moving back and forth from crisp elements to softer ones, from "dry" ones to "wetter" ones, and from spicy elements to milder ones, repeating as necessary. Remember, all of the dishes are to be eaten with good amounts of white rice. That's the best way to mitigate the spice and richness of Southern Thai food. Enjoy.
FWIW, I'll be there at noon for lunch/hanging out. I'll be happy to help you with any questions, etc.
I'll take your word on the Dave's Sauce. <smile>
FWIW, khon thai (with khon pronounced kinda like "kawwn") means "Thai person," or "Thai people," but I'm not sure if it's of much use in English conversation. In fact, using it might cause some offense.
You are probably better off with the following request:
"Please have the kitchen make my food Thai-style, or Thai hot."
Or, if you are asked how hot you'd like your food, try:
Now, unless I'm asked, I'm not so concerned with exactly how hot my food is made. I'm happy enough knowing that I'm receiving food which was made in the proper Thai style, with the words "proper Thai style" in 3ft. capital letters.
Me, I'm looking for the food the kitchen serves their Thai patrons, which might be different from the food they'd serve an amped-up, thrill-seeking "foreign" audience. Understand? Yes, sometimes it means that the food is made really spicy, but it might also mean that the food is made more salty, savoury, "funky," etc.
This sort of thing is best captured with the phrase, "aahaan Thai," which means "real, Thai-style food." <see footnote 2>
IMO, non-Thais would be much better off concerning themselves with real, Thai-style food instead of so much heat. If they focused on style, trust me, the heat they're after will still be present. But, only when and where it's called for. 'Cause, when it comes to proper Thai food, heat is only one variable in a very, very complex equation.
And, well, I wouldn't want anyone to miss the forest for the trees. <smile>
<footnote 1> Phet Maak means "very spicy" in Thai, and it's pronounced kinda like "peeht maahk." As if you were stretching out the English words "pet" and "mock" ever so slightly.
<footnote 2> The word "aahaan" in the expression, "aahaan Thai," is pronounced kinda like "ahhh-haahn." Anyway, it's a particularly useful expression for English speakers. To say, "mai aahaan farang," (with "mai" pronounced kinda like "may," and "farang" pronounced kinda like, "fuhh-raahng," but quickly) means that you don't want your food made in a "foreign" style. It implies that you want "real deal" Thai food. And, I ask you: how can it get any better than that? <smile>
That's a true story. My friend Howard had a bottle of Dave's in the fridge at hunting camp. I didn't know from Dave's at that point so I thought, what-the-heck. An hour later, while I was chest-deep in the lake with a fly-rod in my hand, the Dave's sauce came up. <cringe> It took two men to haul me ashore. And, at that point, the Dave's sauce decided to come *out* too. <evil grin>
Aaaanyway, I'm going to plan a Jitlada dinner on the event board soon.
I hope you'll join us.
Mssr. Gold's penchant for descriptive superfluity aside, there is a very good chance that your order was processed as "foreign." Hard to believe, I know, but it happens all the time. In fact, in a town like this, I'd bet that it happens more often than not.
The next time you go to a Thai restaurant in Thai Town sit by the kitchen pass-through and pay attention to the audible orders:
Did you hear that? "Khon farang"? That was the sound of a non-native order hitting the kitchen. Someone just received "differential treatment." Which, in all probability, means that someone is about to receive less salty, less spicy, less assertively-seasoned food.
"What can I do to insure myself against that," you might ask?
Well, as it's been suggested so many times on these boards, you can request that your food be made "Thai-style," or "more spicy," or whatever. But--and I mean this--unless you speak the language, or are accompanied by someone who does, there is NO guarantee that the waitstaff/kitchen will comply.
At any rate, having said all that, you will be well-served by asking the staff at Jitlada to punch up your order. They'll listen. I promise. But, don't say I didn't warn you. <see footnote>
Here's how an order of khua kling works:
When the order is placed, a small tub of premixed meat/curry is retrieved from the cooler (where it has been "blooming") and tossed in a hot wok. Now, if it's a standard "foreign" order, the dish will be finished WITHOUT additional chile. And, if it's a "native" order, or an order which stipulates that it be made "more spicy," the dish is finished WITH additional chile...and to varying degrees.
<footnote> I was at Jitlada the other day when an order came in from some Southern Thai people in San Francisco. They asked for 12 orders of khua kling, kaeng bai cha-phluu, and kaeng phuung, and all of it "very spicy." So, what happened? Well, when the magic words "phet maak," and--not "khon thai," but--"khon TAI" (i.e., "Southern people") hit the airwaves my inner 14yr old surfaced and begged Phii Uan for a taste. And, then? Well, I could barely swallow a spoonful of the kaeng phuung with rice. And, THEN? Then, an hour later, I threw it up. Really. I threw it up. The only other time that has happened to me in my 30+ years was when I swallowed a tiny spoonful of Dave's Insanity Sauce. <no smile>
Do I sense ennui, TC? If so, it might be time for you to start working on an advanced degree.
Here, try this next time:
1) Ask Phii Tui to make you the as-yet-unlisted kai khii-min, or "deep-fried turmeric-seasoned chicken."
2) Accompany it with one of the vegetable-intensive Southern curries which IS NOT turmeric-based, like, say, the green curry.
When taken together with lots of rice (and the occasional bite of crisp vegetable garnish) we're talking heaven. Really, it's probably my favourite meal these days.
P.S. Did your version of the eel soup contain naam phrik phao, or "chile jam"? Did it have a reddish cast? If so, you've got to try it the other way--the original, hotter-than-hell way--with a clear broth, i.e., naam sai. THAT is the version which truly deserves the name, "devil-style."
Re: Olympic/La Brea truck
I lived in that neighbourhood for awhile and I agree with you, it is worth a visit. All the same, if you find yourself in East Hollywood on a weekend night I'd encourage you to try the tacos al pastor at Rincon Oaxaqueno.
Like the best of them, the man tending the spit at R.O. is a real artisan. For hours on end he is a blur of motion, shaping and grooming the meat just so, ensuring that each section receives the proper amount of heat and char. Most importantly, he never griddles the meat from the spit or holds it in waiting: he shaves it directly onto lightly greased tortillas, then finishes it off with slivers of pineapple which are deftly removed from the fruit atop the spit with a flick of his wrist.
They've included their own rough-and-ready translation on the latest menu insert but my version is far more accurate/detailed. [Transliterations, descriptions, additions. subtractions, corrections, etc.] When they finally get around to reprinting the menu for real, something very close to what you see above will be included.
Jitlada recently made a few additions to the Southern Thai menu:
Here is my translation:
plaa neung ma-nao: steamed seabass fillets with lime
plaa neung het hawm: steamed seabass fillets with ginger and mushrooms
thawt man plaa/kung: fried fish or shrimp cakes with a sweet, spicy dipping sauce
kaeng tai kae: spicy, turmeric-seasoned curry with lamb, jicama, and peppers
tom khaa kop: robustly-flavoured coconut milk soup with galangal and frogs' legs
puu phat phong ka-rii: whole dungeness crab stir-fried with curry powder and assorted vegetables <advance notice required>
puu nim phat phong ka-rii: soft-shelled crab stir-fried with curry powder and assorted vegetables
kung phae chup thawt: deep-fried shrimp skewers with curry paste and wild tea leaves
tom pret plaa lai: "demon-style" sour and spicy soup with chiles, straw mushrooms, and eel
muu/neua maeh chan: "my mother's-style" grilled pork or beef // grilled, peppered pork or beef with papaya salad and sticky rice
tom yam khai plaa : sour and spicy soup with mackerel roe, fish fillets, and shrimp
phat lung khûa klíng khài plaa: phatthalung-style spicy, turmeric-seasoned, dry curry with mackerel roe
And, here is a Jitlada picture set I've started which includes a few of these new items:
At any rate, I can't say enough about the deep-fried shrimp skewers, the curried crab preps, and the eel soup. If you like your Thai food "tuned up," I'd specifically recommend the eel. It'll leave your wig on the floor.
"[...] I want to get to the next level of Thai dining."
Do as I did/do and study the language.
It's the best way to gain access to all of the Thai language menus, menu boards, and newspaper ads which litter Thai Town, New Thai Town, etc. That's where you'll find the stuff geared toward L.A.'s native Thai audience, often at the exclusion of khon farang.
You'll find Thai language menus and menu boards in places like these...
...Yai, Pailin, Ord, Yum Ka Nat, Thai Rice, Ganda, Burbank, Noodle Thai Town, Angel's Cafe, Siam Sunset, Sunshine, Can Coon, Sri Siam...
..and, in ads like these...
Just the other day Professor Salt was over on the General Chow board to say that he'd never found much in the way of pig parts in L.A.'s Thai restaurants:
"[...] Yet I've never seen it offered in Thai restaurants in L.A. [...]"
I had to chuckle, because even a rudimentary facility with the language would reveal...
kaep muu - deep-fried pork rinds
kaeng jeut kheuan chaai khreuang nai -- "bland" soup with Chinese pickled vegetable and pork offal
naem sii-khrong muu - deep-fried "sour" pork riblets
sii-khrong muu kratiam phrik thai - deep-fried pork riblets with garlic and black pepper
tom saep - Isaan-style, light and spicy soup with pork offal <usu. tripe/liver>
yam huu muu - pig ear salad
kaeng jeut leuat muu -- "bland" soup with pork blood
naem - Northern-style "sour" ham <some versions contain slivered pig skin/ear>
yam neua - Northern-style minced meat salad with pork and pork offal <stomach, heart, etc.>
kuay jap - Thick, rich, and spicy rice "flake" noodle soup with pork offal <usu. some combination of heart, liver, tripe, lung, and congealed blood>
tap waan - grilled pork liver
khanom jiin naam ngiaw - Northern-style rice vermicelli with a spicy, rich sauce <minced pork, pig ear, pork riblets, congealed pork blood, etc.>
kuaytiaw reau muu - "boat" noodle soup with pork meatballs, pork liver, and congealed pork blood
"Next level," no doubt.
"[T]he waiter's response to our request for a menu was as if we had asked for some top secret information [...]"
Sí, mi hermano, entiendo. ¿Él está en SU país, no?
"[T]he nearest place that serves an edible taco is probably 24 hour tacos on santa monica just west of vermont [...]"
El Gran Burrito? I'll admit that the tacos, burritos, etc., are strangely compelling creatures when I'm falling-down-drunk at 2a.m., but, c'mon, son, let's be honest: El Gran slangs dog meat.
Anyway, if we're dispensing tips here, I'll say this: far better antojitos can be found at the nighttime trucks which park on Western Avenue between SMBlvd. and Fountain. And, unless you know of a trompo master that makes tortillas by hand, I defy you to find better tacos al pastor than those served on weekend nights at Rincon Oaxaqueno Restaurant. Killer, killer, killer.
El Matador Taco Truck
Mi Terasita Taco Truck
Armando's Hot Food Taco Truck
Rincon Oaxaqueno Restaurant
LOL!! If it makes you feel any better, he no longer has anything to do with the Edison. <smile>