I live near the coastline again, but much further south, so when I am in the vicinity of my old neighborhood, I stop by for some of the local places that are now a trek (24 miles=1+ hour in traffic) from Palos Verdes.

 

The Independence is just a short block away from the beach, and they have a great Happy Hour. This is where I had my first Paloma, and I must say none I’ve had since have even come close to the perfectly balanced tart tequila and grapefruit drink I had here. The Happy hour half off price of $6 made it even better 🙂

I had the oysters, but I would order something else, like the mussels or meatballs at this gastropub next time.

Every so often I crave a great donut….Sidecar is my favorite in Los Angeles, and their gingerbread during the holiday season with powdered sugar stars (which I messed up, sorry) is as beautiful as it is delicious. I’m glad it is seasonal or I might devour one a day (ginger is good for you after all)!

 

The most dangerous donut is their bacon donut, especially when it is warm….I am not responsible if you eat more than one 🙂

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February is the height of cold and flu season, so for me that means it is soup season 🙂 While I love making my own, there are times when soup is just better when someone else makes it for you! Aside from their phenomenal Hainan Chicken, the roasted chicken soup at Side Chick is an excellent alternative; it combines the crispy skin of a roasted chicken with chicken bone broth, noodles, and tender greens all in one hearty, healthy bowl. As with many of the soups in today’s post, this is a great take out option for a sick friend or yourself if you are not feeling well.

I’ve been wanting to try Killer Noodle since they opened, and when a friend on the Westside was running several hours late, I decided to stop in for a ‘snack”. Tsujita now has THREE storefronts all in the same area, including the original, where I ate right after they first opened in 2011. This latest outpost is radically chic, from the moment you walk in, the black backdrop and colorful containers let you know that this is not your hole in the wall ramen shop.

 For newbies to noodles and soups, every condiment is labeled.

I got the medium spice, which was perfectly hot to be able to finish the entire bowl

 of delicious rich broth with ground pork

 while using about five napkins to blow my nose and dab my eyes 🙂

For a much less intense soup, but hearty complex flavors, a Vietnamese Oxtail pho is a great choice. Pho Ha Noi (get it?) serves a very large portion for their version. Easily enough to share, I took half of this home and had two more meals with the leftovers! As you can probably tell from the photo, the oxtails were not really warm, but since they were going into the soup, they were fine, especially since they had great flavor and were very tender.

 The broth was very good, with enough flavor to infuse the beef.

 The usual side accompanied the soup.

One of the times I went to HMart hungry I got their kimchee soup which perfectly hit the spot on a rainy gray day, delivering a spicy bubbly tonic to brighten the day.

 

The last soup in today’s post is from Ruiji, the Sichuan place that came highly recommended; I found it worthy of all the recommendations after just one taste of their food. I ordered the Mao Sih Wong, a melange of blood sausage, intestines, and a plethora of vegetables. This immense, intense bowl is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, and although I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I would order it again, but it was so complex, so intense, and so unique, it made me want to go back for more dishes.

This is the bowl after I mixed it a bit….the amount of blood cake was overwhelming to me, especially since I found I love French and Spanish blood sausage, but not Chinese. I loved all the vegetables, and the chewy intestines and tripe 🙂

Does anyone have any South Bay ramen favorites to recommend?

The caveat to never shop while hungry is one I endeavor to follow, especially when there are so many good choices in the mega Asian supermarkets in the South Bay.

Even though I had heard rave reviews about it from fellow foodaholics, I had never been to HMart, and for my first time, I didn’t want to be ravenous, so I started my tour of the place in their fast food court.

There are actually three sections which prepare everything from bibimbap, a one bowl mix of meat and veggies with rice, to ramen, and Chinese stir-fry. You place you order at the one cashier and pick up from whichever station your food choice is prepared. There is a Las Vegas Keno style electronic display with your ticket # and pick up window, and if you don’t see your number displayed, it is also announced through the loudspeaker. Most items range from $7-$22 and offer fresh, authentically seasoned, and copious servings. Many dishes easily serve 2 people or one large football player.

Since HMart is a Korean Market (it is actually a US chain done in a Korean style), I chose the all in one bowl of a bibimbap. Yes, everything in the picture was under $11 including tax, and yes I managed to finish it all 🙂 The cup in the upper right contains soup, and spicy Korean chili sauce is in the small sealed container.

A close up of the main bowl of veggies.

 Lots of radish and cabbage kimchi on the side.

Another day, another bowl of the same thing, but with slightly different veggies,

 and slightly different sides.

I craved pork one day and what better way than to have it fried with egg over rice? I could only eat about half of this HUGE piece, and barely made a dent in the rice underneath. All this for under $10, made to order, crispy, and savory. I saw other tables with ramen, especially the short rib ramen with a gigantic prehistoric looking sized short rib, but there was no way I could have eaten all that, so I may take to go one rainy day. Note that all to go order are $1 more, but depending on what you order, you may want to take your food to go rather than waste half of it.

Continuing with the fried theme at a food court, I was at Mitsuwa, a Japanese market, and in their food court, Hannousuke, specialized in tempura, and the tempura over rice looked too good to pass up, so I sat down for a bowl before I began my shopping. With the miso soup, rice underneath, and fried vegetables, this was a large serving that could have easily been two meals (at least for me) for $11.

A close up shows more detail, but unless you have X ray vision, you can’t see how much more food there is underneath the shrimp!

I think I will always go shopping hungry now, as long as there is a good Asian Food Court attached to the market 🙂

A song may say that it never rains in Southern California, but there was a torrential rainstorm which not only soaked the dry landscape, but also chilled the temperatures enough that I caught a cold 😦 Since I was too sick to make my own chicken soup, I asked my local friends where I could get some and without hesitation, they said Brite Spot. A Mexican spot focused on seafood, for chicken soup?!?!? Yes, it turns out good cooks, cook well no matter what their specialty may be. Knowing I was too sick to eat there, I took my soup to go, but I was very impressed by the assortment of condiments on the tables and counter; when three of the choices are habanero based and all have been used, it’s a good sign!

My to go soup included a very nice baggy of limes, onions, and cilantro, all of which I added to my soup, along with my own garlic habanero sauce.

Their “medium” sized container of soup for $11 held nearly half a chicken, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, corn on the cob, fresh parsley and a clear broth.

A side of rice came with the soup, as well as a choice of tortillas for those who want starch with their soup. I added some of the rice to my soup.

And found there was enough for TWO meals. I also felt much better the next day, so I ate the even more flavorful leftovers for lunch.

Since they are famous for Mexican food, I went back for a lengua loaded taco and at $6 this was not only a full plate, but a full meal loaded with tender succulent morsels and topped with fresh lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese.

I will be back for the whole flash fried fish….who wants to join me?

When a friend, who is a talented chef, recommended going to Pine & Crane, the chances were good that I would enjoy the meal as well as the company 🙂 We arrived around 1:30 pm and savored finding parking nearby, and seats, in this busy popular restaurant.

My bowl of shrimp wonton soup was perfect, from the tender light wontons and vibrant baby bok choy, to the clear delicious broth that tasted as clean as the ingredients used to make the stock. For $9 you get quality, not quantity, so if you want a mammoth bowl of powdered soup base with frozen premade wontons, go somewhere else. I was perfectly satisfied with my portion and my taste buds danced with joy.

My friend was craving the beef roll, and since I had never tried one before, I took a bite of this hoisin spiked roll and realized it was like an Asian version of a burrito for $6.50. It was big enough to share or for one person to eat for a full meal.

My friend also ordered several sides at $3 each, so I could taste more than one thing, and she took all that we didn’t eat home to her husband (he is a lucky man, and he knows it). All four sides were freshly made, flavorful, and used quality ingredients; it was the first time I actually liked wood ear mushrooms! There were plenty of condiments on the table, but we barely added anything to what we ate because everything was so well seasoned and balanced.

It was a good thing we sat down at the communal table because with all our food, we had to spread out our bounty:)

Chan Dara was my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles, but sadly the location in West Los Angeles is now gone, and after hearing wonderful things about Jitlada, I took the metro and found my new favorite Thai restaurant.

On my first visit, I ordered the softshell crab with rice noodles and somehow I managed to finish this enormous plate. I kept eating just one more bite until there were no bites left to take home 🙂

They serve BEST oxtail curry I’ve ever eaten in my life! The curry was so fragrant, complex, and layered, that I wanted to drink it after eating the meat and vegetables. The meat was falling off the bone tender, and the vegetables were still a bit crunchy, so the combination was truly perfect.

The portion of rice was enough to soak up most of the curry, but seriously, I could have drunk the curry without anything else! The mild heat version is good for those who want to experience the flavors without pain, but I like the medium level for a bit of sweat and burn 🙂

The glass noodles with pork belly may be deceivingly  simple, but the chunks of pork, the raw vegetables, and the flavor of the noodles, make this a great choice to order as a mild dish accompaniment for a spicy curry or just as a dish for pork lovers.

The menu is so extensive, I will just *have* to go back a few more times and sample more:)

I don’t know many people who are vegans, but many of my friends don’t eat meat, or in some cases fish, so finding a good vegan place allows for more choices for them than trying to pick out an item or two from a menu that is geared towards omnivores.

Sage has several locations; the one I went to in Culver City has an enormous tree growing in the middle of the outdoor patio, naturally providing shade and atmosphere to the wooden tables.

The menu has many options for drinks, from smoothies to mixed drinks. For a boozy brunch, you can even order bottomless mimosas for $25.

I opted for a glass of wine.

Since I met my friend for brunch, I chose the tempeh sausage florentine for $15 with three biscuits topped with tempeh sausage, heirloom tomato, spinach, avocado, and hollandaise sauce with roasted potatoes. I enjoyed everything except the doughy bland biscuits.

One one visit the man sitting next to us offered us one of his jackfruit “crab cakes” saying it was his favorite thing on the menu and the portion was too big for him to finish. We took one and tried it, but neither one of us enjoyed it enough to order it.

My friend ordered the hot wings for $14. Tempura fried cauliflower with a buffalo sauce that was the most addictive thing on the menu! It was a large portion, easily enough for a meal or for two to share. If you only order one thing here, order this! The ranch and crudités that come on the side make for a nice fresh contrast to the spicy “wings”.

On another trip, the wings came with more sauce and were even more delicious.

The fried brussel sprouts with lime and salt were also a great item to share for $11 and if you order the cauliflower wings, this is the perfect compliment for a full meal.

Whether you want to try some non meat based dishes, or simply want to enjoy some tasty plant based variations of menu classics, Sage is a great place to start a year of healthy meals:)

My name is Elaine and I am addicted to Armenian food. I wish to remain a very happy addict, so no interventions please 🙂

Monta Factory is a SIX seat place in East Pasadena that will serve you their creations hot or frozen to go so you can make it at home. Think of it like ordering a pizza hot to eat soon or there, but also having the option of taking a frozen one to make yourself at home later. Monta are tiny dumplings made by hand that is a very labor intensive food. Unless you have a grandmother or great grandmother who is dexterous enough and who loves you enough to make a batch for you, your best hope for a taste of this wonderful food is to go to Monta Factory. They are the only place anywhere outside of someone’s home where you can eat these. They tell me people travel from out of state to buy several trays, pack them in ice, then drive or fly home.

The marvelous family here are so warm and welcoming that whether it is your first visit or thousandth, they will treat you with a gentle disposition and broad smile 🙂

The family here makes everything from scratch daily, so they may be the hardest workers in the city. I can’t even imagine the repetitive, laborious, and exacting labor of love this requires every morning as they hand make each tiny piece for the day. I love their spicy version as well as their regular version. As long as you have an oven or toaster oven, any leftovers can easily be reheated in 10 minutes.

I took a large frozen tray for a picnic to go and took a picture of the directions to make sure I followed them correctly:)

This is how they turned out with the yogurt garlic cream poured over the entire tray. An Armenian friend said he was going to get a tray to take home to his elderly parents because it was something he had not eaten in decades.

They only sell a few things on their menu, the Monti (or Monte), that everyone knows about, but also the best Wild Salmon Sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It is made with a special tahini sauce, that was so good I went back twice in one week for it, and the serving was such a generous portion that I ended up with two meals!

I heard a customer order the salmon over salad, so that is what I tried on another day. Depending on how hungry or carb conscious you are, their salmon over a salad is an equally delicious alternative.

Be sure you get a slice of their freshly made (daily) su beoreg. This is a cheesy crispy slice of indulgence that will make you crave another one of the soft interior with a crackling top as soon as you finish your last piece.

Now that I live 37 miles away, I will be making the trip with an ice pack and an insulated sac for a tray or two of their frozen Monte, a few salmon sandwiches, and some slices of the su beoreg so that I will never be more than a few minutes from great Armenian food #addicted 🙂

Tao Thai in Upland is tucked away next to a huge Sprouts Farmers Market, so if you don’t want to shop while hungry, stop in to this tiny place for a quality meal at very affordable prices. You can accent your noodle, rice, soup, salad, or curry with the protein of your choice, including tofu. They give you free crispy egg rolls with a nice veggie filling, but the wrapper was too thick for my taste. I asked for spicy with my rice noodle and shrimp and was very happy with the flavors and heat on my plate. For less than $15 with tax and tip, the quality and quantity were noteworthy.

On a subsequent visit, I chose the chinese broccoli with shrimp, and again chose spicy for my level of heat. The sauce was slightly sweet which balanced out some of the heat from the SEVEN dried peppers at the bottom of the serving dish!

You can always add more spices and condiments from their trays 🙂

Pho Golden Star in Chino serves one of the best bowls of pho I’ve eaten in years. This is their first year, so if you check in on Yelp, they have added a bonus tea and egg roll if you order is over $9, but the bowls are so good and filling, I had no room for either. There is easy parking in the large lot, and the clean, well lit space fills quickly during regular meal times with take out orders and diners, so I’m sure this place has already become a regular spots for locals.

I ordered the brisket, steak, and tendon and spiced it up a bit with some of the tableside chilis. It was hearty and rich without being fatty. I added all the extras on the plate of accompaniments and ended up with a marvelous mix of textures and aromas.

I tried their oxtail soup because I rarely see oxtails on any menu, and after asking the server if I should get the combination or the oxtail, the server immediately said, “Oxtail”. Out came one of the best bowls of broth I’ve tasted in a long time, with tender falling off the bone oxtail, and an unbeatable price of around $10. This bowl is calling me to make the 30+ mile drive again, so next time I may get one order to go 🙂

There is a small altar tucked into the corner of the counter; I may create my own in gratitude for the skills of the woman in the kitchen of this place who made me love pho 🙂

Coffee roasters usually serve better coffee than those who buy their beans already roasted; that is why I love The Conservatory in Culver City, and Jameson Brown, in Pasadena. Demitasse is now my go to spot on Wilshire mid-city, or Little Tokyo.

They stock some vegetarian friendly meals like rice stuffed grape leaves, quinoa salads, and flakey with butter pastries, so if you want a snack with your free wifi, you’ve got sweet and savory choices to either eat on the patio or take to go. I enjoyed the ham and cheese bite I chose to go with my cappuccino; it was tasty and filling enough to tide me over until dinner several hours later.

The menu at Mercado is based on the Mexican roots of chef José, so we started with the tacos pescado for $15, skillet seared white fish, Mexican slaw, avocado salsa, and chile de arbol aioli. Fresh clean flavors, but we found the homemade tortillas disappointing. The pickled vegetables were a welcome surprise, adding zest to the plate.

The enchiladas for $19 made with Mary’s free range chicken, Oaxacan mole, Mexican rice, queso fresco, crema fresca, red onions, and sesame seeds was beautifully presented, but we found it lacked enough character or depth of flavor to warrant ordering it again.

Our server said the carnitas for $25 are a crowd favorite and one bite of this tender Salmon Creek pork with guacamole, Yxta salsa brava and cauliflower with escabeche made me want another, and another, and another…This is a HUGE serving that could easily have served two, or you could take half of it home for another meal.

With a wide selection of drinks and tequila, and a happy hour M-F from 5-7pm, I’m planning to return to try more.

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