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AlkieGourmand's Profile

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Chronicle top 100 2015

Personally, I think Michelin does a fantastic job of weeding out good food from trendy slop. This is particularly true with respect to popular "ethnic" restaurants, which usually pay no attention to such niceties as ingredient quality, execution, plating, cleanliness, and service.

Recommendations For San Fran Restos? - bringing my "foodie" son....

Personally, I would say that Slanted Door is way superior to traditional Vietnamese food.

Has anyone tried Battambang (Cambodian) in San Gabriel?

I went there once. It was mediocre. I also went to a restaurant in Long Beach. It was mediocre. I also went to Cambodia. It was mediocre. I recommend Thai food instead.

Does this look like a paella?

No. That is an atrocity. LOL

Where to find fresh yuzu in Los Angeles? (Ideally westside)

Did you try the Japanese markets? I would assume you could find it at, say, Mitsuwa. It is one of the most basic Japanese ingredients.

A humble primer on Mei Long Village

I've never had anything particularly special at Mei Long Village, but I've eaten there about 10 times, about as much as any restaurant in SGV. Because the food is good and it's clean and uncrowded.

Bagels at Wexlers

I'm pretty particular about bagels. I find the bagels at Wexler's to be very good. I think it really comes down to personal preference at this level of quality. For me, the bagels with lox and smoked whitefish at Wexler's are about as good as I've ever had.

Mori...not the same for everyone

Go's? Chalk this up to: Most Americans don't understand sushi. I'm not trying to be offensive, but Go's would be considered bizarre in Japan. Mori would be well regarded.

800 Degrees Has the Best ... Pizza in LA

I respect 800 Degrees for being a quality chain. But I have found the quality variable, and neither the crust nor the toppings are anywhere near the quality of Pizzeria Mozza. And while that may seem an unfair comparison, recall that the thread title says this is the best pizza in LA.

My question: Why do we tolerate anything less than 800 Degrees as standard pizza? The ingredients are not hard to source, and the cooks are amateurs. The fact that this is considered high-end pizza reflects low standards for food in America,

Most underrated LA restaurants

It was one of the most memorably bad meals I've had in LA.

Downtown LA Delivery

I live and work in downtown LA and order delivery for dinner on most nights. There are a few good delivery options downtown. Here are my recommendations.

***** My favorites

Cerveteca. Mexicanish. On GrubHub. Good dishes across the board. Lots of healthy options. Delivery is excellent. Seems too good for delivery.

Gingergrass. Vietnamese. Delivers through TryCaviar (great delivery service). Everything is good. I especially like the fresh and fried spring rolls and the shrimp and yam fritters.

Peking Tavern. Delivers through TryCaviar. Good dumplings, meat-filled wraps, and healthy appetizers. Limited menu though.

Azla Ethiopian Vegan. On GrubHub. Good and unique. A refined, healthy take on Ethiopian. Limited menu.

**** I also like...

Mediterranean City Grill. Middle Eastern. On Eat24 and GrubHub. I like the falafel, the many hummus options, and the salads. Healthy and good. Dependable delivery (restaurant is in DTLA).

Tara's Himalayan. On Eat 24and GrubHub. Strong with the Nepalese menu items (e.g., momos, daal that). Less strong with other menu items. Good delivery.

India's Restaurant. On Eat24 and GrubHub. Pretty good Indian food across the board. I think it would be average on the East Coast, but it's above average for LA. Surprisingly good delivery to DTLA given that it's in Silver Lake.

Manas. On Eat24 and GrubHub. Pretty good Indian food. They excel with tandoori items and rice dishes (e.g., biryanis). Good delivery.

Several Thai options (Flavors of Thai / MyThai / Sib Song / Arunee / Tid Lom). On Eat24 and/or GrubHub. I've had good Thai deliveries from all these places. I don't have strong feelings about any of them Tid Lom has by far the most exotic menu, with many interesting Isaan/Lao dishes. Flavors of Thai is the only one of these restaurants that is located DTLA, and it is dependable.

Papa Cristo's. Greek. TryCaviar. The menu is hit and miss, and the quality is variable. My favorite dish by far is the plaki fish (fish baked en paillotte with diced vegetables, olives, and herbs).

Guelaguetza. Delivers at least through LABite and TryCaviar (also maybe on Eat24 and GrubHub). Interesting Oaxacan food.

Pine and Crane. TryCaviar. Pretty good Chinese food but very limited menu.

El Pollo Grande. Eat24 and GrubHub. Good pupusas and other Salvadoran food.

Spitz. On Eat24 and GrubHub. Pretty good doner (I always get the salads). The french fries and fried garbanzo beans are good too.

Papi's Pizza. On Eat24 and GrubHub. Pretty good pizza. My favorite of all the pizza delivery options which isn't saying much.

Master Chef. On Eat24 and GrubHub. Decent Chinese food with some surprising options (abalone and sea cucumber).

1810 Argentinian. On Eat24 and/or GrubHub. Solid Argentinian food.

Spring Street Smokehouse. On Eat24 and/or GrubHub. Decent BBQ (at least BBQ chicken).

*** You Might Also Try...

Panini Cafe. On LABite. Some pretty good stuff. Seems healthy. Bean-y baked falafel turned me off.

Casa Nostra. On LABite. Average Italian. I don't think Italian delivers very well (especially pasta).

Colori Kitchen. Same as above.

Plum Tree Inn. Mostly mediocre Chinese Food, but better than average for Chinese delivery.

Mandarin Chateau. On Eat24 and/or GrubHub. Same as above.

Border Grill. Delivers through LABite. A few good menu items (e.g., mushroom quesadilla). Lots of disappointing dishes at high prices. The flavors are weird and not really Mexican tasting. I'm puzzled as to why this restaurant is on Jonathan Gold's list of 99 essential restaurants.

Wokcano. On Eat24 and/or Grubhub. Like Border Grill except Pan-Asian.

Local Table. On Eat24 and GrubHub. Nothing appeals to me. But at least the menu is interesting and the restaurant seems to try to make quality food.

L.A. Dish of the Month, June 2015 -- PIZZA

Simple: I don't like traditional deep dish pizza. The crust is too thick, everything is too thick. I like Zelo's relatively thin, crackery crust.

The Etiquette of Bringing Your Own Meal on a Plane

We can't read the article without paying for WSJ...

But my take on the issue of food and planes is:
1) The food is *always* poor on domestic flights, even in business class.
2) A bag of nuts (or something simple like this) is enough to tide anyone over for any domestic flight.
3) Accordingly, there is no need for food service on domestic flights, nor is there any need to bring a meal on the plane. It puzzles me why people feel the need to eat meals on domestic flights.
4) For international flights, the food is usually tolerable and there are plenty of simple, healthy options like nuts. Thus, there is no need to bring a meal on the plane.

L.A. Dish of the Month, June 2015 -- PIZZA

I second Zelo's. I like it much better than Masa's and any place in Chicago.

I also second Tomato Pie.

One Dinner in LA - Providence v. Redbird v. Shunji v. n/naka v. Maude

I would say it's one-star food but a two-star experience. I always enjoy eating there. I agree the food itself is not on par with the other places.

L.A. Dish of the Month, June 2015 -- PIZZA

Tartufo pizza at 800 Degrees DTLA. Crust was too thick and doughy. The "chefs" stared at the pizza dough with puzzled looks and prodded at it with their hands, only to find that it would return to its original shape every time they let go. They gave up and passed it along to the next "chef," who covered it with lots and lots of cheese.

I did not enjoy the pizza. It was too thick and heavy. It tasted like American slop.

One Dinner in LA - Providence v. Redbird v. Shunji v. n/naka v. Maude

That is so true. That's why I like Michelin. Here was their list of two-star restaurants in 2009:

Mélisse
Providence
Spago
Urasawa

I'd say those are the best four restaurants I've been to in LA. But they've all been around for a long time and are easy to get into.

2015 Soccer Women's World Cup Viewing Locations in Los Angeles

Great post. Inspired me to watch a game somewhere. (Still, I have to laugh at Ye Olde King's Head.)

Little India, Artesia

I like the places you mentioned, along with Jay Bharat, most. Udupi Palace is my go-to, followed by Surati Farsan Mart. (I think the dosas and idli are better at Udupi Palace, but Surati Farsan Mart has a more diverse menu.) It's hard to justify the long trip from LA, but these restaurants are better than what's available in LA.

BEST FRENCH FRIES IN LOS ANGELES

I have always liked Wurstkuche's fries. They were what came to mind when I reviewed this thread.

Omakase - First Time Recommendations?

Mori and Q Sushi. I haven't been either to in a while and am curious how they are doing. Even the most austere sushi restaurants in Japan are flexible regarding the desires of its customers. If you don't like uni, you don't have to eat uni. If you don't like tamago, you don't have to eat tamago.

L.A. Dish of the Month, June 2015 -- PIZZA

I happened to have pizza today and saw this thread. "Santo Spirito" at Terroni DTLA. Better than average but barely worth eating. The crust had little character, it was just crust. The fresh mozzarella did not taste particularly fresh or particularly like anything except a dull rubbery substance. I'd rather have U.S. factory mozzarella cheese; at least it has an appealing stretchy texture. The funny thing is this place pretends to be a snobby place with no substitutions, but they don't really care about quality. Olio and 800 Degrees are both better in DTLA.

Some Tokyo and Kyoto restaurant reviews (Michelin-starred, mostly Kaiseki)

(Top photo: Hassun at Kichisen - The round jelly comprises baby figs! The little fish are ayu. The chef sprayed dew over the dish to enhance the sense of freshness.)

***

These are some notes from a recent Japan trip. All of the restaurants are Michelin-starred. I rely heavily on the Michelin Guide to choose restaurants in Japan because I find it to be reliable and it matches my tastes on the high end.

I listed the restaurants below in order of how much I enjoyed my meals on this trip. I would go back to all of them again, but some were better than others.

You don’t need to know a word of Japanese to dine at any of these restaurants (though you may need help making reservations). But if you are terrible with chopsticks or are a squeamish eater (e.g., you dislike raw sea creatures of all sorts and are disgusted by the thought of eating the heads, viscera, and tails of little fish), it can be hard on everyone, including the diners around you. Most of the restaurants are intimate; you are typically seated at a small counter in front of the chefs and next to about five other diners. Moreover, the majority of these restaurants offer only set course menus, though you can always express "allergies," including dislikes such as uni, raw squid, or meat other than seafood. It's best to do so when making your reservation so the restaurant can prepare.

Another thing to know is that Japanese chefs tend to be both provincial (they strongly prefer traditional Japanese ingredients) and obsessed with seasonality. As a consequence, if you visit seven different kaiseki restaurants over a one-week span, you likely will have similar dishes seven times. In late May / early June, every kaiseki restaurant I went to served ayu (a small river fish), hamo (conger eel), and, most peculiarly, a lake vegetable called junsai (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brasenia). (Even my ANA flight back from Tokyo to LA served a soup with junsai. These things have a cool jellyfish-like texture but little else to commend about them, so I thought it was ridiculous to eat them over and over again. The ones in the ANA soup had lost the cool texture and were dreadful mush. Seasonal silliness.)

One final thing to know: Many of the restaurants offer course menus at a range of prices. Often, the higher-priced menus have the same number of courses as lower-priced menus, but use more expensive ingredients. You shouldn't assume that the higher-priced menu will be a better meal. For example, if you order the highest-price course menu, you'll likely be served wagyu beef and otoro sashimi, when you may prefer fish and tai sashimi.

TOKYO

RyuGin - Kaiseki - Roppongi (***)

RyuGin is wonderful. I’ve been there twice, on this trip and in 2011. I consider both meals to be amongst the best I’ve had in my life (certainly both are top five). The food, presentation, and service are all superb and memorable. I enjoy the beautiful tableware almost as much as the food, which is exquisite. There were several wow moments throughout both meals. My favorite moment in this meal was when our waiter, carrying a basket of ayu roasting over charcoal, took each ayu with chopsticks, held it above our plates, and dropped it such that it landed "standing up" on its pectoral fins, without any bounce. They must have practiced this for hours. So much has been written about RyuGin that I see no need to say more (though I feel like RyuGin has become so popular that it is experiencing a backlash of sorts). I hope that Chef Yamamoto has another wave of innovations left in him and wonder whether the Japanese anchors need to stay so strong.

Sushi Yoshitake - Sushi - Ginza (***)

Incredibly delicious, one of the best meals of my life. Perfect sushi. And the staple appetizer of abalone with liver sauce is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten and far outclassed all the other abalone dishes I ate at this trip (including at RyuGin and Kichisen). The atmosphere was on the serious side, though all the chefs were friendly. I was entranced by Chef Yoshitake's focus on the warmth and consistency of the rice for each piece of nigiri to maximize my individual enjoyment. Some people may prefer Sushi Saito (which I adored last trip) for the more relaxed atmosphere (at least it used to be), but if you're just looking for incredibly good sushi you won't go wrong with Sushi Yoshitake. I'm tempted to list this restaurant above RyuGin because there's nothing that they could have improved upon, but RyuGin wins for the overall experience.

Esaki - Kaiseki - Aoyama (***)

Very traditional kaiseki. My meal consisted of light dishes based exclusively on fish and vegetables (no meat). My favorite dish was a whole “kinki” fish simmered in a beautiful soy–sake sauce. Not the kind of dish you’d expect at a three-Michelin-star restaurant, but it was delicious. Generally, I adored the flavors of all the soups, stocks, and sauces, which Chef Esaki was constantly tasting (to be contrasted with chefs at other high-end restaurants, who are constantly plating). Everything was so simple and good. I especially liked the gohan (closing rice dish) with fresh corn as the main ingredient. I felt that the gohan at other restaurants was often overcomplicated and thus unsatisfying, whereas this gohan soothed the soul. The waitstaff were exceptionally nice and spoke good English. This was substantially less expensive than the other three-star restaurants (probably because they don't use super-expensive ingredients). I left here with a very happy feeling and appreciated the kind hospitality. This restaurant lacks the fireworks of some of the other restaurants on this list, but I can't wait to return. Kudos to Michelin for getting it right once again.

Nanochome Kyoboshi – Tempura - Ginza (**)

Outstanding tempura with a wide range of ingredients. Way better than the vast majority of tempura restaurants in Tokyo, even some with good reputations such as Ten-Ichi. The best dish may be the “shrimp toast” served as the first tempura item (after an appetizer). Other interesting tempura items during my meal were figs, paddlefish, and white asparagus. The chef is a nice guy who speaks decent English. The setting is very casual. I’ve been here a couple of times and plan to return next time I’m in Japan. This restaurant used to have three Michelin stars; not sure why it dropped to two. This is an excellent choice for folks who are nervous about Japanese food but have good chopsticks skills; it's hard not to like tempura. The main downsides of this restaurant are that the price is exorbitant (over $300 for a meal with sake) and the interior is plain.

Yukimura - Kaiseki - Roppongi (***)

More fun than most high-end kaiseki restaurants (RyuGin excepted). The most memorable dish was shabu-shabu wagyu beef with huge amounts of fresh kinomo flower (there are pictures on Tabelog), which provided the mouth-numbing sensation of sansho (a relative of Sichuan pepper). Also yummy was cold soba noodles with tons of grated karasumi (Japanese bottarga). At least for my meal, Chef Yukimura seemed to prefer the bold over the elegant. (The beef dish was downright Sichuan in spirit.) All the chefs spoke decent English and were rather gregarious.

Les Saisons – French - Hibiya (*)

A fancy (jacket required) French restaurant in the Imperial Hotel with a glamorous interior. I found all the dishes in the course menu to be excellent. Service was perfect. I felt like the restaurant deserved two stars.

Ishikawa – Kaiseki - Kagurazaka (***)

I loved Ishikawa on my last trip but only liked it this time. I suspect this is due entirely to the particular menu on the day I went, and that Ishikawa could have topped this list on another day. Generally, I find Chef Ishikawa’s cooking to be elegant, refined, and subtle. In my two visits to Ishikawa, all the other patrons were Japanese, which is not the norm at most Michelin-three-star restaurants in Tokyo. This is probably due largely to location (Kagurazaka as opposed to Ginza or Roppongi).

Ginza Okuda – Kaiseki - Ginza (*)

I’ve been to Ginza Okuda twice and like it much. Okuda is one of the only restaurants on this list (if not *the* only) that is open for lunch, where it serves an excellent kaiseki meal that lasts about two hours. The chef and staff are friendly and warm. If you’re looking for a great lunch in Ginza, I highly recommend Okuda.

Sasuga – Soba - Ginza (*)

Sasuga serves a fairly inexpensive course menu with two soba courses and lots of other buckwheat-based dishes. There is also an a la carte menu. I found all the dishes enjoyable, though simpler than those of the other restaurants on this list. The waitstaff were friendly and took pride in the restaurant’s food. But both the waitstaff and the kitchen seemed overwhelmed, and the meal dragged on for longer than I would have liked. I would go back to try the wide variety of soba dishes that are available. All the clientele I saw were Japanese; this was off the beaten path for food tourists and foreign business folks. This was by far the cheapest of all the restaurants on this list (maybe $70 with sake for one person).

KYOTO

Kichisen - Kaiseki (***)

Kichisen was fabulous, start to finish. Some of the dishes were amongst the best I ate during my trip, including ayu sushi (so delicious--best dish of the trip) and a dessert of melon with ratafia de Champagne—a liqueur I had to Google. Kudos to the chef for using a non-Japanese ingredient to prepare a special dessert. Presentations were beautiful (see top photo). And the chef and staff were friendly to boot. I recommend this restaurant very highly. (Interesting aside: A sous chef at Sushi Yoshitake scoffed at using ayu for sushi, saying it was no good. When pressed a little more, he said it wasn't part of the Edomae (Tokyo) tradition but noted that it was part of Osaka tradition. I've had ayu sushi twice, and my own opinion is it's oishi oishi oishi!)

Roan Kikunoi - Kaiseki (**)

Roan Kikunoi is the more casual sister of three-star Ryotei Kikunoi, with mostly counter seating. While all the dishes at Roan Kikunoi were good, none of them was particularly impressive. Overall, the meal was not as enjoyable as my meal at Kichisen. The dishes weren’t presented with as much care, the counter seating was cramped, and the chefs weren’t so friendly to me (they were “Japanese polite”). Also, the meal was rushed: dishes came one after another with little time for digestion and reflection. I felt a vibe of "we're famous, you're an ignorant gaijin, you should feel honored to be eating here, please leave quickly so we can seat another customer" from this restaurant. I believe this was the only Japanese restaurant except for Sasuga where the head chef forwent the nice gesture of seeing each diner out the door after the meal. (Even Chef Yamamoto bid us farewell outside RyuGin, despite the restaurant's large size.) I had a much better experience at the Kikunoi branch in Tokyo. Even though I say all these things, it was still a good meal.

***

(Bottom photo: Wagyu beef at Yukimura)

Jun 13, 2015
AlkieGourmand in Japan
1

Top 5 Downtown L A?

life is too short for mediocre food like Bottega Louie. It may be better than average but that's only because Americans have low food standards. In Italy or France this place would be empty.

Top 5 Downtown L A?

Terroni
Maccheroni Republic
Tender Greens
Wexler's
Baco Mercat

10 favorite cheeses

Epoisses
Taleggio
Parmigiano Reggiano
Beemster XO
Mozzarella di bufala
Pecorino Romano
Roquefort
Gruyere
Feta
Gorgonzola

May 18, 2015
AlkieGourmand in Cheese

Green vs. Yellow Chartreuse

The biggest difference is probably that the yellow has more honey and less alcohol. It likely has more saffron too (though I believe the green has saffron).

Like most people, I prefer the green, but I think the yellow is underrated. The yellow is more like a dessert wine (but way stronger in alcohol); the green is like a strong digestif.

Apr 24, 2015
AlkieGourmand in Spirits

Best Thai Restaurant in Hollywood

I've only had two things there--the raw crab in black crab sauce/pla rah fish paste and the duck laab. Both were great; the creamy raw crab is one of the best things I've eaten in LA. It transcended the similar dish at Ruen Pair.

What are some over-rated L.A. restaurants to you? Why, specifically? Only one each!

Phillipe's. Why, specifically? I don't know what to say other than the food is slop.

Isaan Station in K-Town should be on people's radars.

Thai people in LA often name this restaurant as one of their favorites. This is the best place for authentic Issan cuisine.