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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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Sometimes I crave beef….and since I like my beef grilled (who doesn’t?) I’m always looking for a place that serves up either perfectly grilled rare meat, or which provides the ingredients and utensils for me to grill it myself. Hikari was so perfect that I was hesitant to try another Japanese BBQ place. Whereas Hikari is the old school Japanese style, Tamaen BBQ is the modern US influenced style. Different flavors fit different people, so depending on your taste and budget you might opt for one over the other. The service at Tamaen was excellent, as in keeping with the American style of fast, efficient, and friendly; my waiter had worked there for 10 years and was an expert in both service and knowledge. They even have take away meals for those who wish to grill at home!

They have built in table grills and use the good (expensive) charcoal, added with gas underneath.

I got there early, but by the time I left, the place was packed.

Since many of their choices were for 2+ people I chose the beef heart small portion to grill. The also offer grass fed beef versions of some cuts of beef for slightly more $. They offer American Waygu and some offals like liver, as well as sushi and Korean pickles, so you can create the fusion meal you desire here. Their drink selection is very diverse as well, offering an entire menu of drinks from different countries and grades. I chose the beef heart  with salt instead of  miso based on my server’s recommendation, but it didn’t have enough salt for me (I really should carry my own in my purse), so I asked for more and they obliged with a small plateful. The heart was tender, but the flame was a bit too low, so my server adjusted it to give it the perfect sear. The small order was about 100 grams and just enough to be an appetizer to my oxtail ramen.

The oxtail ramen was the reason I came in because it was a special and I love oxtails. The soup was full of vegetables, and the oxtail was very tender. A good portion for the small price under $10, but I would have preferred a larger price with a larger portion. The flavor was well rounded, but I would have appreciated a bit more oomph of seasoning or spice, but that is me, I know many people who would love this soup the way it is.

I loved this logo (also on the server’s hats) and that their tables all had bibs/aprons (I thought it was a napkin at first until I saw the napkins on the table). so that you don’t splatter your clothes! Even walking in, you can check in electronically, and every table has the call waitstaff button so you don’t have to try to flag someone for a condiment or your bill. For service and variety alone, I would recommend this place!

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!

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 🙂

President Thai was recommended by two unrelated food lovers, so I went to to lunches 🙂 The immense building, menu, and long lines, could have been overwhelming, but the service was so kind, patient, efficient, and happy, that I felt as if I was their honored guest. If you are ever in the neighborhood, or simply want to be in a place where you are surrounded by genuine smiles, head over to president Thai.

They start off all lunch specials with either a bowl of delectable soup or a small salad.

The first time I tried their beef because this was their most popular dish. The meat was tender, the flavors were balanced, and the portion was huge! Even as a lunch special for around $10, this was easily enough for two meals; the picture is a bit deceiving because the layers of meat are a bit hidden under the garnish.

I chose the chicken with rice noodles for another lunch and was happy

to add any variety of spice I wanted to my dish. The portion was again very generous and I ate two meals from the one order.

Sushi Roku has many locations, and I have eaten there several times, but I had never tried their Happy Hour until recently. Served only in the bar area (inside or outside), the selections are varied enough for those who like cooked and raw choices. I began with a $5 beer since it was so hot.

A yellow tail and scallion cut roll and a salmon skin hand roll (not crisp) at $5 each started things off,

segued into $5 tempura green beans and another order of the yellow tail cut roll.

The Albacore tacos for $6 were a good choice for those who like fusion.

The hit of the happy hour was the $5 popcorn shrimp with jalapeno cut roll.

At the Thursday night South Pasadena Farmers Market, the longest line is always at Mama Musubi. I braved the wait one day and got three, the beef, the tuna, and the seaweed; my favorite was the seaweed, seen at the right edge of the photo, and apparently it’s also the most popular one:)

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.

August in Paris means the locals are gone and the tourists are in town; it also means finding any place to shop or eat on a Sunday becomes even more of a challenge than usual, requiring the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes. After a bit of research, Sherlock @John8600 pointed me in the direction of Hokkaido. Even though it’s Summer, the days are rainy and cool enough that eating ramen is still a pleasurable experience, at least it is for me, a Southern California transplant:)

I got the Champon Ramen, which was packed with vegetables and a few thin slices of pork in a clear broth. The vegetables were very fresh, and the noodles were decent. After eating the ramen at Dosanko Larmen, I had hoped for soup comparable in depth of flavor, but the broth here did not have much flavor and even after using the condiments on the table, I couldn’t doctor it up enough to take more than a few sips. The portion is huge (for Paris) so if you want a filling dish, this would fit the bill.

The menu special of 11 Euros included 5 gyoza which were very good; crisp on one side, tender tasty filling, and not greasy. I would definitely order these again, but maybe instead of ramen, I would try one of their noodle or rice dishes, both of which looked good on other tables. Service was very pleasant, and even though it was packed, the food came out rapidly.

Even when it’s not Sunday or August, finding a place that is open between the usual lunch and dinner hours here of 3pm-7pm, is so challenging that restaurants advertise if they are open “nonstop” as an enticement. Udon Jubey usually has lines out the door during the peak meal times, so if you don’t want to wait, or want to eat during the afternoon, this is an excellent choice.

I think that until you’ve tried something done well, you can’t really say you don’t like it. I used to say that I did not like udon, but this bowl changed my mind 🙂 The springy noodles in the flavorful broth with the green onions and seaweed are a classic preparation, yet I had never tasted such a symphony of simplicity; every note was perfect, and the music of slurping sounds could be heard throughout the restaurant.

As part of their set menu of 16 Euros, you get the udon and a choice of sides like this Katsu and omelette slices over shredded cabbage

with a small bowl of chicken rice with pickles. The Katsu was crisp with a nice sauce, and the rice had the benefit of richer flavors from being cooked with broth.

The small portion of Katsu with the set menu was so good, I went back for a full katsu on another visit, which was almost more than I could eat; I saw plates of tempura which looked tempting too, but I had no room to eat anymore!

Besides the warm service, and the delightful food, they had something on the tables which literally made me smile: bottles of red pepper condiment 🙂

People who work with food know where to find great restaurants, and that was how I heard about Pintung on Melrose. I had walked past it a week ago, but with its nondescript market facing the street (look for the sidewalk blackboard advertising Stumptown cold brewed coffee), you would never know that there are treasures to be found in the back patio. Like finding buried gold in your backyard, this new addition to Mid-City makes me smile with delight.

Once I walked into the back patio I literally said, “Wow”! With an enclosed section, and an open section decorated with bamboo plants, the warm and sleek aesthetic was such a welcome contrast to the dark marketplace storefront seating area that it wasn’t even a question as to which space I preferred to eat my meal.

The other customers ranged from hip Japanese in pink hair and working on pink tablets, to television people loudly discussing their projects (probably wanting to be overheard). There were of course quiet, “normal” people (like me:) but this place draws from all the people L.A. is infamous for, so if you want a taste of all the lifestyles in L.A., you can come here and people watch.

The cuisine is a cross section of all Asian cuisines in one place. There is banh mi from Vietnam, dim sum from China, ramen and sushi from Japan, and rice bowls which would probably be the common link between all Asian countries. Because they are in Los Angeles, they also have options like a vegetarian banh mi, and soy chicken with brown rice, but I wanted to see how authentic their Asian dishes were, so that is what I ordered.

I started with the sauteed pea shoots for $7.25, and was thrilled when they arrived spicy, flavored with sesame oil, and perfectly seasoned. It was a big bowl, so with the other dishes, I ended up taking half of it home, but it just got better a day later.

The crystal shrimp dumplings were $5.50 (the Asian server told me they were Har Gow when I asked what crystal dumplings were). They were bigger and better than any Har Gow I’ve ever eaten in any Dim Sum place (and I have eaten in dozens from NYC to SF). The wrapping was so fine and light that they literally fell apart when I lifted them up from the steamer basket. They were also at least twice as big as any in a Chinese restaurant, with whole shrimp (not chopped up shrimp mush) and bamboo shoots. The table had dumpling sauce as well as other condiments if you want to dip them in sauce, but they are great by themselves.

The only dish that was a miss was the chow fun noodles for $7.95. I chose beef, but you have the option of chicken or vegetarian. The chinese broccoli had too many woody stems, the noodles lacked flavor (you can doctor it with the tableside condiments, but you should not have to season your food), the beef was tender but scarce, and there was a puddle of oil at the bottom of the bowl. Skip this dish and go for one of the ramen bowls if you want noodles.

Seeing Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage wrapped in Lotus Leaf for $5.50 on the menu, I had to order it. My Aunt used to make these and send me home with a dozen that I would make last for as long as possible until I saw her again. I haven’t had one since she passed away and I was almost afraid to try one made in a restaurant, but these are wonderful. I could only eat one, so I took the other home (to re steam).

The filling was full of pork, preserved salty egg, shittake, and the rice was perfectly infused with the lotus leaf flavor. One of the packages had more filling than the other, but both were delicious if you like this ethnic comfort food. I’m tempted to order a few orders of this to go and freeze them like I used to with the ones my Aunt made:)

As I told the server (another Asian), I am so very glad to have this place close to home without having to deal with those pesky Asian drivers in Chinatown or Monterey Park; I can say that because it takes one to know one:)

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Paichẽ is a prehistoric Amazonian fish which you can taste in Marina Del Rey, while promoting its sustainability in the Amazon. As a Southern Californian diner eating at a Peruvian Izakaya, you are also part taking part in a fusion of cultures and cuisines. Welcome to culinary globalization in Los Angeles.

On the ground floor of the MDR Hotel, Paichẽ is a comfortable modern space with a sleek clean feel. There is the center seating area which becomes quite animated when full. They’ve only been open since April, but I’ve heard the place gets packed during prime dinner hours, so make sure you make a reservation if you want to come on a week-end.

A more tranquil side area by the windows which feels more intimate.

With various signature drinks, I asked my waitress which was the least sweet, most sour, and she suggested the Margarita. I know I can be very boring, but theirs is made with Jimador tequila, house made orange bitters, lime juice, agave nectar, and a pinch of gusano salt for $12. It was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. The unique ingredients elevated this ubiquitous well drink to boutique level. It was also very strong, and I felt the effects for well over an hour even after all the food I ate (I walked over to one of the few remaining brick and mortar Barnes & Noble bookstores to shop and get sober before driving home).

I started with the tiradito (raw or lightly cooked) of seared sea bass with Amazonian sacha inchi oil, soy dressing, garlic, and oba for $9. A fantastic way to begin any meal, with fresh subtle flavors and a light dressing. This was one of my favorite plates. If I ordered five or six plates of this, I would have made this my meal, but the whole point of izakaya is tasting many things, so I tasted several more plates.

The waitress recommend the Paichẽ wrap lettuce, and I could not come here and not taste the anticucho miso marinated grilled Amazonian fish for $12. It was very similar to the sea bass, with a bit more firmness and it held up well to the anticucho miso which gave it a slightly spicy kick. I enjoyed the texture of the fish, lettuce, and crunchy fried topping, and I would recommend this to anyone who says they don’t like fish.

The calamari rellano for $10 is one of those fusion dishes that works perfectly. It’s a baby squid stuffed with morcilla sausage served with aji pepian. This is one of those comfort dishes that doesn’t look like a one; the creamy bed of rice with the morcilla covered in a tender squid wrapping made this a hearty small bite. My only note on this dish was the morcilla sausage had several bites of inedible cartilage, but it was so tasty that I would order this again in spite of that.

Tied for my favorite dish, was the perfectly fried chicarron of pescado for $11 with a lime yuzu sauce. Various pieces of tender fish, crispy on the outside, complimented with a very tangy yuzu sauce (which you really didn’t need, but it was so good you must try at least one bite of the fish with it). A benefit of small plates is that even when ordering something fried, it’s a small portion, so you can enjoy it without too much concern about your arteries. Since I ate all four plates, I skipped dessert, but for those who have room, Paiche does fantastic churros like Picca, its sibling restaurant.

I may never do any “fishing” outside of Marina del Rey’s Paichẽ, but I know when I come here that I will always get to eat great fish 🙂

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