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KimBap Paradise is known for their Korean rolls, kind of like sushi rolls but with different fillings, like beef 🙂 However tempting they sounded, I knew that there was no way that I could eat an entire roll, much less one with a bowl of soup or Bibimbop, so I opted for the bowl of Bibimbop alone. Of course it came with soup, rice, sides of kimchi, and pickled radish. The ingredients were all fresh and delicious, especially after I added the umami laden red chili bean paste (not spicy) into the bowl. Nothing on the menu is over $15 so you can experiment with new flavors without exploring going into debt.

I’ve written about Eboshi before, but I went back with a friend who had lived in Japan and spoke Japanese, so it was an “upgraded” lunch experience my second time around. We started with grilled beef tongue, a simple bite that is rare to find in Los Angeles.

My friend ordered the cold bowl of ramen Hiyashi Chuka for $11.50 that he devoured with gusto, saying it reminded him of his time in Japan.

I ordered the fried oysters which were wonderfully crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, and even though they were flown in from Japan, the price was very reasonable. Since I hate macaroni salad, I can’t tell you how that tasted, but it was included with a small green salad for around $6.

Even though I no longer live in the neighborhood, the area around Sawtelle known as Little Osaka, Korean Super is still a good place to stop for a bowl of comfort food like this sweet savory chicken with pickled radish. It’s a hearty portion, served in an easily transportable container, so you can take your leftovers home:)

So many bowls to choose from, where should I eat my next bowl?

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Rabano is one of those places that make me appreciate living in the South Bay.  Supporting small businesses that make fresh, tasty. and healthy food is always a pleasure, and the added bonus of having them close by, makes it on my list of go to places when I don’t want to either cook or drive.

It is popular and the parking lot is tiny, so either go at a non peak time, or park on a nearby street like Artesia or Prospect. The parking is the only drawback here; once you get inside you may either order on the tablets in front of the large menu on the wall (there are daily blackboard specials by the cashier) and take a number, or if you prefer human interaction, order at the cash register. The choices are very straightforward, but on my first visit, it was a bit overwhelming. For the bowls, you can choose any item with white or brown rice, ancient grains, or salad. For the salads and sandwiches, it pretty much self explanatory unless you want an upgrade or add on.

I was very impressed at the quality of the ingredients for the prices. Grass fed beef burgers for $12, free-range chicken in the salads and sandwiches, hand made sodas and dressings.

Their pork belly knockout, with lemongrass marinated pork belly, a sweet miso glaze, gochujang, wilted spinach, pickled slaw and watercress on ancients grains for $11.50, was a hearty meal. Tender pork belly with the contrasting bright pickled slaw, and greens made it a filling bowl, but not heavy or greasy. I put my leftovers on arugula when I got home and had a second meal from my leftovers.

The Lechon Cubano of cuban style pulled pork, mojo criollo, black beans, red pickled onions, and sweet plantains for $9.50 nice riff on Cuban pork. I found my serving about half fat, half pork, but even so, there was more than enough pork and flavor to make me happy. I added lots of hot sauce to spice it up, and next time I would ask for more of the pickled red onions to perk it up.

My favorite bowl here is the El Koreano for $11.50 with grilled certified Angus beef (you can choose free range chicken instead), baby bok choy, cucumber, carrot, gochujang, house kimchi, and a sweet umami glaze. I chose it over white rice, but next time I would choose either ancient grains or brown rice. All the contrasting textures and flavors, from the crunch of the cucumbers to the tender meat and the wonderful home-made spice of the kimchi, worked together to create a colorful complimentary composition.

Service was both friendly and efficient, with a harmonious energy that echoed the food they serve; it really is true that the back of the house is as important as the front of the house, and the house at Rabano is well kept inside and out.

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 🙂

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 🙂

Now that I’ve lived here for over a year, I have finally (almost) gotten enough French food to want another kind of cuisine. I had a craving for Korean. Although I knew that the open grills found all over Los Angeles don’t exist here, I was willing to at least try to find something good. The Fork is like OpenTable, and when diners ranked Sodam 9.2 out of 10 in picky Paris, I gambled and tried it.

Like all true treasures, I had to venture outside my known world to find this gem. Their lunch menu is only 13 € ($16 US) and includes a drink (in France that means a glass of wine), appetizer and main course. Their salad is not only beautiful, but their sesame dressing is superb.

Their pot sticker appetizer was extraordinary, filled with minced pork and vegetables in a light wrapping, I could have easily made a meal of these

which were served with a sesame soy dipping sauce.

Of course all Korean restaurants include side dishes, and Sodam was no different, except that I missed having kimchee as one of my sides. Kimchee can be ordered as a separate side for 3€ ($5 US) but I found it hard to pay that much for what is a free side in the US. Imagine having to pay for ketchup for your fries :/ It looked good and maybe one day I will order it, but today wasn’t that day.

Extra points that their rice was not your average plain white.

On one visit I got the bulgogi or marinated BBQ beef which came with it’s own personal sized “grill”.

Yes, the beef came raw so that you could cook it as long as you wanted. The shallots, garlic, and beef serving was copious and the flavor was very good, although not as pronounced as I would have liked.

On another visit I ordered the spicy (I asked for spiciest) chicken sautéed with vegetables which had a subtly sweet flavor. This was perfect for someone venturing out of their normal comfort zones, but it left me wanting much more heat.

Every time I went, the service was extremely friendly and there were large tables of Korean families who were regulars. I would definitely go back to try more of their menu because it seems this is one of the rare places in Paris that comes close to bringing a taste of Korea to the city of lights.

When chef Molly asked me if I wanted to meet her at a Korean BBQ place, the only correct answer was “Yes”! Manna may be located in in Little Tokyo, but it is quintessentially Korean BBQ with the American twist of all you can eat for $25. Aside from Brazilian Churrascarias, I don’t frequent “unlimited food” places, mostly because the food is usually not anything I would eat even small quantities of, much less eat enough to warrant a limitless supply.

Manna offers Angus and KOBE beef and KOBE pork selections for $25, along with all the side dishes, a hot and cold buffet, and a relatively smoke free space (smoke from the grills not from tobacco). For $18 you can get a smaller selection of meats without the Kobe choices. Aside from the SIX birthdays loudly announced over the loudspeaker throughout our meal, it was a very pleasant experience. If you go alone, they do have a set menu, but it is much more fun to share with a group of friends. If you can round up just one other person, the unlimited deal prevails (if you prefer shabu shabu they offer that as an unlimited option also but it was 90 degrees at night and definitely BBQ weather).

They have validated free parking (park on the 4th floor to cross the footbridge) and they also have waitstaff (conveniently summoned with buzzers on the table) who will bring you kimchee, steamed rice, and whatever meats you wish. I ate about three plates of the kimchee by myself! All the other accompaniments are at a self service hot & cold buffet.

Some of the other small plates:

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Salad was also brought to the table in a large bowl and had a light dressing.

Condiments are all on the table, and Chef Molly made me a great sesame oil and seasoned salt dip.

This is a steamed egg bowl that you can order (no extra cost).

The self service buffet tables were full of classic choices.

If you wanted “sushi” or rice noodles, they were available at the buffet bar as well.

For starch there was fried rice and potatoes, as well as the rice paper wrappers and rice bowls that are served with your orders.

Fried tempura looked the least appetizing of all the food at the buffet.

We got about six orders of marinated kalbi beef and two of marinated chicken (they will replace the grills and replenish the meat as many times as you wish).

Pork belly can be grilled to crisp bacon.

The marinated Kalbi was definitely my favorite, but the beef tongue was good too (with some seasoned salt). It amazed me that I kept up with Molly in the amount of food eaten (she weighs a little more than I do, but is at least 8 inches taller)! I know most people would love to have the problem of putting ON weight, but she literally loses weight overnight, even eating like this nonstop!

All told I think we ordered a total of 12 meat orders for 6 people with multiple trips to the banchan buffet bar for sides, so I can’t think of a better place to take meat loving friends for value; even with three huge beers for the table, our bill including tax and tip was $33 per person. My chef friends always know the best places to eat and Molly’s suggestion of Manna was no exception!

Manna Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

The idea is simple, make Korean inspired fast food. Kogi did it, but Seoul Sausage Company has done it with their own twist and style. Having won the Food Networks Great Food Truck Race #3 (A certificate is prominently displayed by the food pick up area), these guys know how to cook, market, and serve their clientele. 

The small storefront off Sawtelle has been open less than a year, but there are already regulars and lines out the door. The vibe is funky Asian, with hip music, kitschy anime toys, and a minimalist decor; you have a choice of eating at a stand up counter inside, nabbing one of the 8 seats at the picnic table outside, or taking your order to go. All the food is either wrapped in paper or delivered in paper boxes. This is an eco friendly place, but with their seven item menu and limited space, do not expect them to cater to your whimsical preferences.

I tried nearly half the menu, starting with their most popular ball, the Flaming Ball with DMZ sauce for $3. It’s a fried ball of rice, kimchi, cheese and served with a spicy dipping sauce.

If you like the Italian arancini di riso, this is a spicy Korean version. It was great plain without the sauce, but if you want to add a bit of spicy creaminess, the DMZ sauce is a great accompaniment.

Because it’s called the Seoul Sausage company, I had to try one of their sausages, so I went for the Galbi for $7. I was a bit apprehensive when I saw them pour a line of wasabi mayo onto the bun, but it wasn’t too much and it added just enough viscosity.

I was pleasantly surprised by the “relish” of diced kimchi at the bottom of the roll, and the bread had just the right amount of “toothiness” to make this a great sandwich. If you love sausages, you will love this version!

One of their specialties is the “Da KFC” served with a kimchi cornbread and pickled daikon radish for $8. A mix of both light and dark meat with a slightly sweet “BBQ” sauce on the bottom of the box, this tasted like a cross between Japanese karage and Chinese sweet and sour. It is an addictive version of KFC, and in this case, I have no qualms about being addicted:)

I thought the cornbread was half the box, but it turns out, it covered more chicken! There was no way to finish this after eating the ball and tasting the sausage, so I saved it to reheat for another meal.

Their menu offers Poutine and Spam, which are both low on my list of cravings, but if their versions are as good as what I’ve tasted so far, they may convert me.

Seoul Sausage Company on Urbanspoon

Looking for a place to eat at 11:30 pm on the Westside during a week night is no easy task. There are of course the usual diners and the Brazilian place that over cooks nearly everything on their menu, but my friend Mika was starving and wanted something good. We were willing to try something new before resorting to the old mediocre standbys.

We saw the neon “Open” sign at Asian-Ya as we were driving to the mediocre places and Mika did a U-Turn, saying, “I hope they are good” as she turned into their parking lot. We were willing to chance it and we grew hopeful as we saw half the tables filled with young students, and the posted hours said open until 00:00 (Mika translated and told me it means midnight).

They are a bit of a sake bar, with a menu devoted to flavors ranging from dry to sweet, made from sweet potato, barley, and rice. Prices ranged from $5 to $15 a glass and a “glass” is a ceramic cup that is big enough to hold about 8 oz. For some strange reason when I asked for my sake cold, they put ice IN the sake. I didn’t mind since I had not chosen a $15 sake, but be forewarned if you do want your sake cold and order a premium sake.

Since I was along mainly for company, not because I was hungry, I chose the clams in sake for $7. They were very flavorful and tender. The broth was so delicious that I could have drunk it as a soup.

Mika ordered the Miso Eggplant which had a slightly sweet paste and the toasted sesame seeds added a nice smoky crunch to the soft eggplant.

Mika also chose the shrimp fried rice which was she liked so much she kept eating spoonfuls even after she declared, “I’m full” . It was also a very generous serving, easily enough for two.

Mika’s eyes were bigger than her stomach, so she only finish about half of everything she ordered, including the grilled mackerel, which was done classically and well; not too dry, and not too oily.

The mackerel dish also came with miso soup and the grand total for everything we ate (and all the food that Mika took home) and drank (Mika had a hot tea) was only $36!
It was a steal considering the quality of the food and the wide selection (there are some Korean choices on the menu as well as ramen, curry, and exotic grilled meats like beef tongue and gizzards). Even with these prices, they have a happy hour from 5-7pm with drinks priced below the already reasonable menu prices.

I think we may have found our late night spot on the Westside open and serving with a smile at 00:00:-)

Asian-ya on Urbanspoon

It’s been about 2 years since I have reviewed Shik Do Rak (read my previous post here) and although many of the good points remain, some things have changed. As I noted in my previous post, it is very rare to find any Korean restaurant which serves non Koreans (especially non Asians) well; I have literally been told “No, we are not serving” when entering with a Caucasian and seeing that the restaurant is obviously open and serving.

Shik Do Rak still does well when greeting all customers, they still smile and open their doors to all who enter. Since none of us was Korean (they spoke to me in Korean and I said “What?”, and one of us was Caucasian, we were happy to be welcomed.

The portions are still huge and very reasonably priced, with huge portions of Kalbi (marinated or not) for under $28; the grill was about 15 inches in diameter and what is on the grill was only about half of one order. Before any meat arrives they toss the onions and mushrooms on while the grill heats. The Kalbi is very well marbled and they provide scissors and tongs so you can cut up the meat safely so you can maneuver it on the grill.

You have the option of cooking your food yourself, or having them cook it for you and bring it out, as they did for this pork dish. The ventilation is fairly good, with huge hoods over the grilling tables (one side of the restaurant has no grills so they cook your order in the kitchen and bring it out to you if you are seated in the non-grilling section). Your hair will probably still smell of BBQ, but not to the point where dogs will follow you home. The pork was tender, slightly spicy, and crispy on the more grilled pieces; watch out for bits of bone clinging to some of the cartilage.

Numerous side dishes arrived before the main courses to be eaten as condiments and although all of us love heat, but the grated radish was too hot to eat more than a few bites at a time, and the gelatinous green dish was tasted and left alone after my friend Mika said that “It tasted like nothing” and had a strange texture. The burdock root, tofu skins, and bean sprouts were all good, as was a slightly too sauced bowl of green salad. Mika had to have rice so she ordered that as a side (all Korean restaurants only serve rice on the side because they feel that if you have meat,fish, and sides rice is merely filler).

With three of us, we ordered three dishes, so besides the two meat dishes, we had Jap Chae (glass noodles with vegetables and beef). Once again the portion was huge, served on a 15″ plate and piled high. It was well seasoned and loaded with fresh vegetables, but I found it a bit oily.

We were the only non Koreans in the entire restaurant, and it was packed so two years later, what changed? The portions are still huge (we took a third of the food home) and the food is still fresh and well seasoned; I still think that this is the best Korean BBQ restaurant outside of Koreatown. But on the negative side, the one disturbing change was that tables which arrived after we were seated got served (ate and left) before we did and we were ignored after our dishes were served, even after trying several times to flag down a waitress to refill our kimchee dish. Their service is still miles above many places for their treatment of non Koreans, but I am disappointed that they are becoming a more segregationist restaurant rather than standing out as a place were everyone is served without regard to their national origin.

Shik Do Rak - Northridge on Urbanspoon

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