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June Gloom usually starts in June, but this year it came in May, bringing Brigadoon like fog, drizzle, and a chill that called for hot comforting soup. Eboshi Noodle Bar is in the same plaza as Hikari, the fabulous Japanese BBQ place. My local foodie friends said it was good, so I stopped by for lunch one day.

Bullet trains are precisely on time in Japan, and Eboshi is true to their posted opening and closing times, so if you arrive 5 minutes early or late, you will not be allowed inside. I appreciate this kind of precision because it translates to the food that is served by Japanese to Japanese (I was one of only 3 non-Japanese in the packed lunch time crowd).

As you can see from the handwritten menu items, prices are very reasonable, and I loved the variety from grilled beef tongue to fried oysters from Japan, in addition to the full page of ramen choices.

 I chose the classic miso spring onion, and it was a gigantic US sized bowl, loaded with so much spring onions, it was almost an even proportion of onions to noodles! The flavor was deep and slightly sweet, with bits of ground pork, and hearty enough that I was full for the rest of the day. I have no idea how the others at the counter ate an entire bowl AND gyoza too! At around $12 including tax and 20% tip, this was also a bargain.

 

The same friends who told me about Eboshi, also said that Ramen Ko-Ryu was their favorite, so that was my next stop.They are famous for their spicy soup with a board of fame for those who have conquered the challenge, but I was just seeking a warm hearty bowl.

I chose the garlic bomb with spicy miso, at under $10 this flavor bomb combined crispy garlic bits with two thick slices of char siu, green onions, and bits of pork in a mildly spiced broth and springy noodles. Around $12 including tax and 20% tip, this was also a bargain, and it came out literally 3 minutes after I ordered it!

My favorite soups are at Din Tai Fung, with locations across the globe, and three in the greater Los Angeles area. Their shrimp and pork wonton soup has the clean flavor of freshly made tender wontons in a consommé broth that is both light and complex as only masters of soup can execute.

My favorite soup of all (so far) is the braised beef noodle with 3 or 4 big hearty melt in your mouth chunks of tendon rich meat, baby bok choy, and perfect noodles in a heart warming broth, all for an incredible price of around $14 including tax, and 20% tip. I could eat this every week, and will probably be back next week for another bowl 🙂

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I do not have a BBQ, so when I crave grilled meat, I either have to go to a restaurant or convince a friend to fire up their (usually gas) grill. Hikari may be a bit out of the way, but every bite of grilled meat I ate was a mouthwatering morsel of tender juicy happiness.

The grills here are not gas powered, so the flavor of whatever you grill has the added carbon component. If you allow you meats to sit on the grill (they provide metal tongs and scissors) until they are properly seared, you will be rewarded with flavors that will make you smile:)

I chose the thick cut beef tongue for $13, which was scored and marinated before being brought to my table.

Once on the grill, the fat dripped into the coals

and resulted in this gorgeous result.

I was still hungry so asked my waiter whether he suggested the ball tip or the hanger and he said hanger for $10, so that is what I chose for my next course. It was a much larger serving than the tongue and it came with a ginger and scallion sauce for the meat to be put on after grilling. Hanger is one of my favorite cuts of meat, and this was perfectly marbled quality meat that may convert any filet mignon lover into a hanger lover.

Hikari was so good, I had to go back with friends, so that I could taste more of the items on the menu. I went back the next week with two non-Asian friends who are foodies (and not intimidated being the only non-Asians in a restaurant). We started with the fried chicken, a nice rendition, nothing exceptional, nothing amiss.

On my recommendation ,we ordered the thick cut tongue and hanging tender, which they loved 🙂

 We had to order a vegetable, so we chose the stuffed mushrooms, and we were glad we had eaten other items because it took awhile for these to cook….

But they were worth the time to get a burst of cheese, garlic, and mushroom in a juicy bite!

 

So many Yelp reviews raved about the carbonara that we had to try it. With pork belly and watercress, this delectable combo was the epitome of great fusion on a plate:)

The last order of the night took the longest to get to our table, but it was worth the wait for the rib fingers. Rib fingers are the pieces of meat between rib bones, so they are the meat you love usually attached to ribs you gnaw, but at Hikari, you get the meat sans bones in their fatty, wonderful moist pureness with a side of minced garlic to enhance the grilled meat.

 

 

I don’t know how we made it out the door, but after 5 orders and 2 large Sapporos for the adults and a soda for the teen, our bill was only $100 including tax and tip. Our waitress came outside as we walked out to thank us for visiting 🙂 I am sure will will be regular visitors!

Since my first visit in 2009, I’ve been enamored with Rock Sugar. (For those of you who missed my previous posts, here are #1#2, and #3) I wrote my first back to back posts on Rock Sugar because I just couldn’t wait to go back to eat more and share the beautiful space and excellent food.

It’s always comforting to go back to a favorite and find that it is still a favorite; as I found with A Food Affair recently 🙂 Even though the Westfield Century City Mall was literally torn to the ground and rebuilt into a completely modern chic mecca of food and shopping (Eataly is now here), some of the older restaurants and stores remain in the same place and still draw their loyal clientele.

This water wall on the patio was a soothing sight on a busy week-end.

The most soothing of all is eating comfort food like Singaporean noodles with shrimp, done so perfectly that you have no desire to even attempt to recreate it at home. The balance of spices, textures, and seasoning was so completely satisfying that somehow we finished the plate even though we said we were full halfway through it.

The short rib banh mi was a nice counterpoint to the noodles, with slightly sweet beef, crunchy pickled vegetables, and a side salad with crispy taro strips.

 Even the bathrooms are every bit as delightful as the food 🙂

The saddest part is leaving, but we must leave in order to return again 🙂

After reading glowing reviews of Rui Ji, I made it a point to try it. On my first trip, I tried a spicy numbing soup that had such complex, spicy and numbing flavors that I couldn’t wait to go back. This spotless, calm, and very hospitable restaurant is a good choice for anyone who wants a nice ambiance with their authentic food. I may not be an authentic Asian, since I never drink tea with my meal….

I enjoyed the beef tendon dry pot very much. It had the perfect amount of heat and a melody of flavors that infused the dried tofu, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots with a savory satisfying melange of textures and spices that intoxicated me.

The roasted duck was a perfect crispy delight of sweet and moist duck on one occasion, and a mediocre barely warmed flaccid plate of poultry, on another. I think the chef de cuisine on Sundays needs a refresher course, or perhaps they lost their great chef from Saturday 😦

 The baby bok choy and mushroom dish was superb.

The spicy shrimp hot pot was both delicious and uneven. The shrimp were slightly overcooked, and the seasoning was uneven, with very salty wood ear mushrooms, and perfectly seasoned vegetables.

The heavy handed salt addition wasn’t a distraction in the spicy beef noodles, which had excellent hand cut rice noodles and bok choy. The very salted beef eaten with the noodles and vegetables was a balanced dish.

The hot and sour noodles were so overly salted that we sent it back. The bits we ate, we had to eat sparingly as if it was a salty condiment instead of a dish.

All in all, I was happy with the flavors and the complexity of the condiments, but depending on the day and the chef, you could either be ecstatic or disappointed by the simple crime off too much salt or not enough heat to make the duck skin crispy.

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 🙂

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:)

There are a few general rules to follow when trying to trying to decide if a place will be good:

1) Is there a line when nearby places have none?

2) If it is an ethnic cuisine, are there people of that ethnicity eating there?

3) Has a friend with a discerning palate eaten there and liked it?

Mama Lu’s answered all these questions yes, but aside from one dish out of four, I can not say it was good.

They are known for their dumplings, so we ordered some to test out their signature dish. They were surprisingly bland with a heavily cilantro based filling and even with some doctoring with tableside black vinegar and chili oil, the three of us only ate one and left the rest.

I am still on my quest for great beef chow fun. The presentation made me hopeful, because it was not greasy, but once again it required doctoring with several of the tableside condiments to flavor these noodles. Again we left half food on the plate.

The clear winner of the evening were the pea sprouts sautéed in garlic, which we all loved and which needed no doctoring of any kind! This was the only plate we finished completely.

The clear loser of the evening were the clams in black bean sauce which were cloyingly sweet and which none of us wanted to eat after a few bites. We were amazed at how full the restaurant was and how disappointing the dishes were, especially since two of my friends had eaten there before and enjoyed their previous meal. It may have been a change of chefs that night, but I am not keen to venture for another try with their poor batting average on flavors.

A better choice for Chinese is Phoenix Food Boutique, a small outpost of a small chain, catering mostly to take out customers. Their $7.95 shrimp and pork wonton noodle soup was a hearty bowl with wonderful wontons and fresh bok choy. I found the soup itself lacking in depth of flavor, but the ingredients were tender and tasty enough to merit ordering this bowl.

The $8.50 beef chow fun was big enough for 2 people, and chock full of tender slices of beef, crunchy bean sprouts, and tender spring onions. If it were less greasy, this would have been perfect!

Seoul Sausage has been one of my favorite spots ever since they opened a brick and mortar shop near Sawtelle. I’ve been to their Little Tokyo location before, but this time I brought friends for Happy Hour. Since my friends are adept beer drinkers, our wonderful waiter provided us with tastes of several before we placed our order. We shared the Sausage Party platter and all agreed that the sweet and spicy chicken and the kalbi pork were our favorites,

so we followed up with two full sized sausages of both.

One of my friends ordered the Da Rapokki, pork belly spicy ramen, but didn’t like the lack of liquid, but I loved the spicy noodles and pork belly.

I couldn’t come to Seoul Sausage without making my friends try Korean Fried Chicken aka KFC, which was the hit of the evening 🙂

Little Sister in DTLA is across from Bottega Louie on 7th Street, but unless you are looking for it, you will miss the discreet signage and miss the mouthwatering flavors hidden inside this small space. My mouth has been dancing in joy ever since I found this place and I look forward to every meal there just as I look forward to every trip 🙂

I asked my server her favorite dish and I ordered it; grilled prawns, cabbage mix, mango, cucumber, onion, cashews in a lemongrass cilantro dressing. It’s a much bigger serving that it seems and it could easily have been my lunch with the complex and layered flavors and textures.

The pork, shrimp, and crab dumplings with a spicy black vinegar dressing, chive, spinach, and peanuts was so  tender and savory especially with the extra sauce on the side that I didn’t want to share any with my dining companions.

 The sauce could be a  savory cocktail 🙂

The rice paper pho banh cuon beef and beef tendon, herbs, lettuce, pickled onion was a melody of textures and flavors that combined like an accomplished band, bringing in elements of silky rice paper, with sweet spice and chewy tendon.

My least favorite was the spicy lemongrass chicken with garlic and dried chilies which had depth but not to my taste for the combination of spices.

Very little on the menu is over $15 and they have sandwiches, rice and noodle dishes, as well as congee for those who want more starch. It will take awhile to eat my way through their menu, but it’s a challenge I would like to accept!

Los Angeles may be the City of Angels, but traffic is a nightmare; the freeways are constantly clogged in every direction, for every possible reason, ranging from rain to a game. Using the Metro as often as possible is my way of lessening both my carbon footprint and preserving my sanity.  I’ve used the Metro nearly every time I’ve gone downtown and it’s been the most efficient and least stressful method (and no I’m not being paid by them in any way to say this)!

The Miyako Inn is only one block from the Little Tokyo metro stop and in the heart of Little Tokyo. I had of course come to visit this neighborhood and have eaten here before, but it’s a much better experience to stay overnight rather than drive 30-60 minutes (depending on traffic) to get home. To top off the treat of not needing my car, the room was a gift from a friend who left town in the afternoon and asked if I wanted it for the night. YES!

Because of its location in Little Tokyo, the room is done in a very zen style, with clean lines and neutral tones. If I had chosen to drive instead of take the metro, the parking rates were extremely reasonable for downtown, at only $30 for guests with unlimited in and out access. Free Wifi was also included in the entire hotel to guests and visitors alike.

The bed was super comfortable with the most heavenly pillows and one of the most remarkable features of the room was that the windows OPENED! There was a mini fridge, a safe, slippers, and a coffee / tea maker all included in the room along with an ironing board and iron. As an impressive touch they even had organic green tea as one of the in room complimentary choices. Water was a reasonable (for a hotel) $2 a bottle.

 The toilet was a fun Japanese one

 with bidet controls for temperature, water pressure, and direction 🙂

 I found these inside the nightstand top drawer!

 This view lit up at night,

 but the brightest light was the full moon.

I love Seoul Sausage Company‘s brick and mortar location near Sawtelle, and I found that they have a location in Little Tokyo, so I headed out for happy hour and their famous KFC: Korean Fried Chicken. Crisp, sweet, and slightly spicy with bits of pickled radish, this is great bar food, or you can get a full order of 6 for a meal. If I lived in the area I would probably come by here every night for a bite and a drink 🙂

Being in Little Tokyo meant ramen places were just across the street from the hotel. Daikokuya usually has lines out the door, but since I could the literally see the place from my window, I just peeked out until the line was shorter 🙂 I got the miso ramen, and although the noodles were great and the broth was flavorful, it did not have the complexity of the broth at Tsujita.

I couldn’t leave without sushi, so the next day I went to the famous Sushi Gen 30 minutes before they opened and waited in the line that was already a block long. It looked like every table ordered the sashimi deluxe lunch, but it was a massive plate of food and there was no way I could have eaten it all, so I opted for the chirashi which came with miso soup.

This bowl of chirashi was the freshest and biggest I’ve ever enjoyed. It may look like a regular bowl, but underneath the fish you see is ANOTHER layer and the bits that look like bites are actually much larger  than they seem. I would gladly wait an hour or more for this and many people did. Those who arrived when they opened and after noon may not have been able to get seated before they closed between lunch and dinner service. They are famous for a reason; I’ve never paid such a reasonable price (under $20) for such high quality sashimi anywhere in the world.

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