Showing posts with label little tokyo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label little tokyo. Show all posts

Friday, August 26, 2016

Simbal is the Vietnamese Izakaya You Need to Try (Los Angeles, CA)

Simbal is a bit of a sleeper gem in Little Tokyo, which opened last summer and has since gotten plenty of critic accolades. The space is tucked away in Little Tokyo mall, but it's worth finding the place for Chef Shawn Pham's truly wonderful Southeast Asian food.

Simbal has been dubbed a "Vietnamese izakaya", so the small plates menu certainly has plenty of dishes that are meant to accompany drinks, like the Yin's wok fried seasoned nuts, anchovies, seaweed ($5)
Simbal
Chef Shawn Pham is doing some fun takes on Vietnamese classics, like he does with the Banh mi salad, with pickled daikon and carrots, Vietnamese sausage, head cheese, cucumber (banh mi, low-carb style?)
Simbal
Chef Pham has worked in some powerhouses such as the shuttered Sona, Craft, and The Bazaar, and Simbal's menu marries his fine dining experience with his four years in Vietnam. You'll see this in dishes like the beef tartare, larb seasoning, served with a puffy sesame bread.
Simbal

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Udon and Uni at Marugame Monzo (Downtown LA)

When Marugame Monzo opened in Little Tokyo, I was excited for two things. First, the handmade udon means I don't have to drive to Torrance for good udon! Second, two words: uni udon.

Yep, one of the signature items is the Sea Urchin (Uni) Cream udon ($15.95)

Marugame Monzo
Perfectly chewy udon, creamy sauce, uni. I mean, what's not to like? During my first visit with a couple of friends, we barely tried anything else because we all wanted to order this.

The glass windows of the kitchen let you see the udon making in action.
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Trust me, having freshly made noodles of any kind (soba, pasta, and yes, udon) makes a huge difference!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fickle's New Spring Menu + $100 Gift Certificate Giveaway!

Little Tokyo is not just for ramen and sushi. There's plenty of diversity in the restaurants that have popped up there recently.

At Fickle, you will find a range of items from shrimp cocktails to Vietnamese style noodles. From the new spring menu, I liked the Kampuchia Shrimp with Pickled Carrot and Cilantro, Black Pepper and Lime Vinaigrette. Dip them generously in the sauce.

Shrimp
I also knew I had to get Santa Barbara Uni Bún (Cold Vermicelli Noodles, Mint, Cucumber, Nuoc Mam)
Uni Bun
Executive Chef James Ta played around with the basic components of the Vietnamese Bún (that means noodles, not "bun") by adding one of my favorite ingredients, sea urchin! It works quite well with refreshingly clean noodles and cucumber.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bulgogi Banh Mi and Juices at Fruit Farm in Little Tokyo

An unassuming cafe called Fruit Farm had popped up inside of Little Tokyo's Galleria mall, serving fresh juices, smoothies, sandwiches, and salads. What to know is that one of the owners is Korean so you can get fun sandwich mash ups like this bulgogi banh mi ($6.75 gets you the two pieces shown below and you can get half filled with something else!)

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What I actually like even better was the spicy pork banh mi that I got in my other half of the sandwich.
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The bulgogi tends on the sweeter side and I think the light spiciness of the pork works better with the banh mi accompaniments, but both were good and interesting.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Afternoon Tea at Chado Tea Room (Little Tokyo)

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A pastime I enjoy but don't get to do quite enough is afternoon tea. I've slowly tried various afternoon tea places around town but have never tried Chado Tea Room before, despite the fact that they have three locations including Pasadena.

The afternoon tea is $18 per person (one of the cheaper options in LA), but I had bought a Groupon for the Little Tokyo location and invited Wandering Chopsticks to come along.

Chado has a pretty extensive list of loose leaf teas, priced by the ounce and some can be quite expensive. One good part about doing the afternoon tea is that for the same price you get to choose any of the teas on their list, some of which are a lot more expensive than others.
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I ordered the Chado Afternoon Tea (usually $5.67/oz) which they said was "the most elegant blend of the best gardens from Darjeeling." It was a good cup of Darjeeling, though I ended up enjoying the tea Wandering Chopsticks ordered better, though, the Lavender Earl Grey, as it was more interesting.

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Our afternoon tea set, served on the traditional three-tiered trays

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Spice Table (Little Tokyo), Fire Ahead.

One mission had always been in the back of my mind, resurfacing when the opportunity arises: Find a good bowl laksa in LA. The bowl I use as standard is that of Katong Laksa in Singapore. Sadly, memories of that taste is slowly diminishing ... Even if it isn't quite Katong, I think I've finally found a worthy bowl at the newly opened The Spice Table in Little Tokyo.

The Laksa ($12) at The Spice Table is filled with shrimp, fish cakes, and mussels (to substitute for the usual cockles in S'pore, perhaps?), and thick udon-like noodles. The coconut curry broth is rich and thick, and they don't mess around with the spiciness.

Laksa at Spice Table
If it isn't spicy enough for you (it was plenty spicy for us), a side of sambal is provided.

While the laksa was the main reason for my going to The Spice Table, they have plenty more to offer in the classy space, dimly lit by lightbulbs inside birdcages.
The Spice Table
For those without reservations (or waiting for your party members to arrive), food and drinks are available at the bar, where you can watch the wood-and-charcoal-fired grill in action.

Rugbord Rye Beer The wines were expensive, but the beers on tap were reasonable. I like how they have 4oz pours of their draft beers for $1.75-2.50. I get to try more and *feel* like I'm drinking less. While waiting for e*starLA I had the Orchard White Belgian Witbier from The Bruery ($2) then proceeded to Rugbrod Dark Rye Ale, also from The Bruery (also $2).
There's only one bottled beer here and it's not surprising that it's the Singaporean Tiger Beer.

While I was expecting the peanut dipping sauce with the sinful Lamb Belly Satay ($10) to be sweet, my mouth was immediately on fire.
Lamb Belly Satay

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vegan Feasting and Boozing at Shojin

I am never one who'd decide to go vegetarian one day, but I've heard many great things about Shojin, the organic/vegan/macrobiotic Japanese restaurant in Little Tokyo from fellow bloggers (mainly LA-OC Foodie and inomthings).

Seitan Steak
Seitan Steak Marinade
I've been meaning to try it for a while and an invitation to a blogger dinner provided the last push and I finally made it there!
Shojin's Dining Room
Shojin's dining room was much nicer than I had expected, especially for being in that neglected mall in Little Tokyo. White tablecloth, chandelier, and all.

Shojin also recently started serving alcohol and we tried their "Mojito" made with unprocessed cane sugar, mint, apple juice, cranberry juice, vegan sake (Ichigo)

We started with a tasting of the three most popular appetizers:
Spicy rock shiitake tempura, spicy wasaby mayonnaise
Yuzu ponzu Seitan (pan fried sliced seitan with grated daikon and yuzu citrus sauce)
Spicy fried tofu (fried marinated tofu, spicy soy sauce)
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The shiitake tempura was chewy and meaty. I loved the tofu which had a light yet crispy breading. Apparently the batter was made with whole wheat and arrow roots which makes it stay crispy for a long time. The seitan was unremarkable compared to the other two.

Shojin also makes sure to serve vegan wine and sake. Wine isn't always vegan? Nope, apparently most wines are filtered using egg whites or egg shells. The appetizers were paired with some Nottage Hill Chardonnay from Australia.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Get Cultured, Gnaw on BBQ Ribs

We were sitting in the night breeze of Little Tokyo, listening to an amazingly talented woman recite her poems about kings and fems, a Boston-based spoken-word duo BrownStar prophesying Kal Penn, our fingers sticky with bbq sauce, gnawing on a giant beef rib.

Just another night at Tuesday Night Cafe.

Tuesday Night Project is the longest-running free public arts series in LA. For the past 12 years, every 1st and 3rd Tuesdays the TNProject brings the community together to listen, see, and perform music, poetry, plays, improv comedy, and anything else you can think of.

Johneric Concordia from The Park's Finest BBQ has been a long time supporter and resident host of Tuesday Night Cafe. In fact, he always feeds the staff and performers of TN Cafe with his delish 'cue.

To get more exposure of Tuesday Night Cafe and their annual fundraiser TN Party (more on that later), TN Project invited a few bloggers to the Cafe on July 6th, enticing us with some Park's Finest BBQ. Park's Finest only does catering right now with a minimum order of $300, so I thought it was a good opportunity to try the 'cue that Pleasure Palate claims to be the best in town. Plus, I've been missing the whole art and poetry culture since college.

I tried a plateful or stuff, including a wonderfully tender leg of chicken with a great spice rub, pork ribs, rib eye roast, and beef ribs.
If you ask Johneric what style bbq he serves, he'll say that it's true Echo Park style. "You don't get shot if you can cook," is another thing he'd tell you. Johneric is Filipino so you can see some Filipino influence like in his famous Concordia sauce that's flavored with coconut or the flavors in his spice rub.
It's all about the bbq sauce on them ribs.

The Mt. Mayon hot sausage links were spicy but so good. I had to go to the cafe next door with my mouth burning and my fingers sticky to buy a bottle of water but it was well worth it.

The cornbread they serve is a riff on traditional Filipino dessert called Bibingka, which is usually made with rice flour, sugar, and coconut.

These Tuesday nights are free for you and everyone (PS. there's one going on tonight July 20!), but nothing is ever really free. TN Project has to somehow pay for all the sound equipments, lighting, etc. The donation box that goes around isn't going to cut it.

If you want to support this ongoing community project, you can help by attending the TN Party on July 31st. There will also be a silent auction of various donated items. Both the ticket and silent auction proceeds will go towards keeping TN Project alive and kickin'. Not only that, this is one of the rare opportunities where you can go and buy a plate of The Park's Finest BBQ instead of having to throw a whole party!

Tickets are $15 pre-sale and $20 at the door. There will of course be live performances and plenty of raffle prizes. Park's Finest BBQ and Good Girl Dinette will also be on location serving up some good food.
TN Party. JACCC Plaza (244 S San Pedro St). July 31, 2010, 5-11 PM.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Toshi Sushi (Little Tokyo): Omakase vs "Omakase"

Craving sushi, I remembered that Toshi Sushi in downtown has received a lot of praise from fellow bloggers recently, including Sinosoul, djjewelz, and others.
We came on Easter night and the restaurant was empty. I asked to sit at the sushi bar, and the waitress asked what I was going to order. Sushi? Probably Omakase?

Then she asked what kind of omakase I'm ordering, the set or something-or-other.
Toshi Sushi offers an "Omakase" Sushi set that is printed on the menu. For $44.50 you get:
daily appetizers, asari (clam) miso soup, wagyu tataki, grilled black cod, and "most valuable 10 pieces of sushi assortment of the day", and ice cream. This is the meal that djjewelz reviewed.

OK, understandable if the place was full, but why do they care if the restaurant is empty. Moving on, I said I'll order whatever is needed for me to sit at the sushi bar.
We ended up getting a full-on omakase. Whatever Toshi-san wants.

1. We started with some appetizers: seaweed from Japan, mountain yam, shark fin, and pear.
Some of you may be furious about the sharks fin offered here, but I wasn't. I grew up loving sharkin and stil do ... A nice combination of texture here between the sticky yam and seaweed and the crisper pear and sharkfin.

2. Halibut with marinated seaweed.
This first sushi course is a wonderful introduction of the freshness of the sushi we were about to have and the subtlety of Toshi-san's touch.

3. Bluefin tuna from Spain (that I forgot to take a photo of).
It's smooth and fatty, amazingly so for a non-toro tuna.

4. Snapper from Japan.
Fresh and chewy. The marinade is light and not overwhelming.

5. Deep fried octopus.
Chewy texture. The batter is a bit salty and greasy but the dish overall is good and flavorful.

6. Mackerel with marinated seaweed.
The mackerel has a natural saltiness. Both the flavor and texture are quite nice.

7. Chu-toro bluefin tuna from Spain.
This piece was not too fatty but still melts in your mouth and has that nice oily flavor. And of course, fresh.

8. Here we moved back to a lighter set of appetizers. A trio of dishes:

Sea cucumber
Nice and crunchy, surprisingly so as usually cooked sea cucumber is very fatty and tendon-like. Still, if you're used to sea cucumber you would enjoy this and otherwise it might be too weird.

Kumamoto oysters.
This has a bit too much sauce for my taste.

Baby squids.

Sweet and slimy. Loved it.

9. Now we're back to the fattier and heavier side of the meal, starting with Hamachi belly.
My favorite, always. Fatty but still a bit chewy. Nice flavor

Next came the most memorable and unique dish of the night:
10. Slowly baked bluefin tuna cheek.
This was my first time having cooked bluefin tuna cheek and it was amazing. It was tender but a bit chewy and meaty, had lots of flavor, a lot of oil. Excellent. If Toshi has this when you go, do try it.

11. O-toro (again, forgot to take a photo. Guess I was hungry!)
Melts in your mouth, definitely much fattier than the chu-toro.

12. Seared salmon belly with foie gras.
Fat on fat. Oh yes. The texture and flavor combinations are great, in that fatty melt-in-your-mouth-save-my-heart kind of way.

Because my companion loves his tamagoyaki, he asked for an order. Instead, we were given a tasting of three tamagoyakis:
13. Tamagoyaki with seaweed powder, tamagoyaki with yam, shiso, and plum, and a regular tamagoyaki.
In those Japanese comics or drama people always argue whether or not they like the salty or sweet tamagoyaki. Well, here we have both and more.

14. Aji from Japan.
The sushi here is never overwhelmed by sauces.

15. To finish up, I had an order of really sweet uni (Santa Barbara) while my not-an-uni-lover-companion had some ikura.
16. Followed by an order of unagi.
Nicely seared meaty unagi and again, not doused in too much sauce.

Brown rice tea to cleanse off.

Most people would count uni or unagi as their “dessert” but we have such a sweet tooth interesting so we got a couple:

“Chocolate Souffle”
It’s a perfectly fine dessert but I do not think this is a proper soufflé. This isn’t the first time I encounter “soufflés” at Japanese restaurants (and beyond) though. The vanilla mochi ice cream, though, was quite good and noticeably fresher than ones you get at the grocery stores (prompting us to walk across the street to Mikawaya!)

Panna CottaThis dessert worked better than the soufflé for us.

This meal wasn't $44.50. Obviously, right? That would've been amazing. Still, we got away with ~$80 per person after tax and tips which I still think was a great deal considering what we ate.
I was quite impressed with the quality of the sushi we had, and that baked bluefin tuna cheeks? Incredible.

Toshi Sushi
359 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 680-4166
www.sushicateringtoshi.com
Toshi Sushi on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lazy Ox Canteen

I probably don't really need to introduce Lazy Ox Canteen. This new baby of Josef Centeno (formerly of Meson G and Opus) recently got a three-star review from SIV at La Times and parking around Little Tokyo has been harder to find than ever.

And if you're wondering right off the bat how I like this place, I'd like to point out that this review is based on 3 visits. Not that the place is perfect, but just how many places do I visit three times in two months? Not many, not many. The fact that they have a routinely rotating menu helps.

The place got packed following the LA Times review but you can still walk in and wait for spots at the bar or community table.
Cancha, a Peruvian corn, toasted and tossed with chili powder, salt, and lime. A good snack, although I've realized from my Peru trip that I don't like Peruvian big, starchy but bland corn as much as the sweet corn variety.

Lazy Ox carries a selection of sodas with sugar cane including Bundaberg ginger beer, etc. I've always loved root beer so I gave the Abita Root Beer a try.
The first soft drink made by a microbrewery, this root beer is produced by Abita Brewing company which specializes in microbrewed lager, the root beer is made from Lousiana sugar cane. A notable step up from your typical canned root beers at the grocery store.

Lazy Ox Canteen has a semi- permanent printed menu and a large rotating blackboard specials. If you don't pay attention to the blackboard, you're missing out.

New Zealand salmon crudo with Tabil
This salmon was fresh, meaty, and had a lot more flavor than most. The Tabil sauce was nice and added a nice richness but you really only needed a bit of it as the salmon itself gave you most of the flavor you'd need.

Creamy farro grain with sunchoke puree ($13)
A good, risotto-like creamy dish.

Hand-torn egg pasta with sunny-side up egg, brown butter, herbs ($11)
My first thought was that it was rather thin and thus mushy, but then I quickly started loving it. By the end, it was my favorite dish here (I also have a long standing love affair with eggs, which should explain my love of weekend brunches). The flavors are a more subdued and restrained here and I can imagine some people saying that it is bland, but I find it to be nicely balanced. The herbs provided the appropriate kick and neither that or the butter was overwhelming. If there is a dish to make me come back over and over, it's certainly this one.

Lamb Cheeks w/ Pickled Red Onions ($14)
Good flavors, pretty tender. A good combo with the mashed potato and greens.

Whole roasted quail, stuffed with golden raisins.
A bit on the small side of an "entree" and feels a little overpriced (over $20). I did like the quail but personally felt the stuffing to be a bit distracting.

Chilled Rice Pudding w/ caramel, hazelnut brittle ($7)
This was a recommended dessert that seemed to have made its way as a permanent addition to the blackboard. Denser and firmer than your typical rice pudding, but the caramel and hazelnut brittle are definitely a welcomed addition.

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My second visit to Lazy Ox was thank to LAist's Sam Kim coaxing me with their fried chicken dinner ... no, wait. I think it was the other way around.

The fried chicken dinner for two was a weekly special, and I believe it cost $28 or so?

I also had a Peche Lambic. They have a nice selection of beers although it's a bit pricey especially for the pour sizes.

The chicken dinner might or might not have come with salad ... Sam Kim arrived earlier and received a salad with his order but we did not until we had to ask for it (and the bartender we talked to wasn't sure if we were supposed to receive one).
The salad was actually on the bitter side, but seeing how rich our other dishes were, it was a necessary side on the table.

The Fried Chicken for two consisted of about 6-7 pieces total.
The chicken meat was undoubtedly moist, but the breading was a little too thick for my taste.

The dinner also came with a biscuit with gravy.
Buttery biscuit, creamy gravy with bacon, and I really love the combination of the collard greens soaked in the gravy.

Because I heard so many people talking about the pork trotters, I ordered some too.
It was a perfectly good dish, tender and flavorful and my friend thought it was his favorite dish of the night, but I suppose I was just a bit disappointed since the preparation is similar to the lamb cheeks I had on my last visit.

The three of us shared what we thought would be a fairly light dessert: Lemon Trifle ($7)
It didn't end up being light, but was instead pretty dense and rich. It did have a nice tart flavor.

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A week or two ago I felt like I needed a really good meal, but didn't want to drive too far. So we ended up at Lazy Ox Canteen again. We were seated outside this time, having called ahead 30 minutes before arriving.

We started our meal with the Hand-torn Egg Pasta again. Still as great as I remembered. Just this dish was worth our trip.

Farro w/ Beet Puree & Yogurt ($9)
Rich and creamy but that acidity of the yogurt cut the richness nicely. A great dish.

Suckling Pig Pork Rack ($18)
Tender, though small (I mean, it was a suckling pig ...). Was it that much better than, say, rack of lamb? Not particularly I suppose. That doesn't mean it wasn't great.

What ended being the next highlight was in fact the Lamb Roast.
Perfectly cooked for my taste. Medium rare, so tender. See for yourself:

If they can consistently produce a lamb like this, I would definitely be here all the time.

For dessert I got the Chocolate Pate w/ fleur de sel
A decadent chocolate dessert that's helped by both the brittleness of the candied seeds and the ice cream.

Lazy Ox Canteen provided overall good meals, with a few outstanding dishes that are enough to bring me back again. The rotating menu is always interesting and doesn't get old. Your meals here can easily tend towards the heavy side, though, so either order very carefully or ... just let go for a night.

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-5299
www.lazyoxcanteen.com
Lazy Ox Canteen on Urbanspoon
Lazy Ox Canteen in Los Angeles

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