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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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RockSugar was so good yesterday that I went back today with 3 friends and we ordered the prix fixe lunch for four of us as well as an additional appetizer, side dish, and main course (we were all very hungry since it was about 3pm and none of us had eaten lunch).

I am happy to report that the service was again very efficient and friendly, and our food pleased even a very picky eater who commented “I thought this would be weird, but it tastes really good.” Just goes to prove that everyone can appreciate good food if they are simply brave enough to try something different.

We had the lacquered ribs as our additional appetizer and although they were sweet and sticky, they were not cloyingly so, and meaty enough for the four of us to share one plate. Our prix fixe for four included 2 salads, so we chose the green salad and the jicama with ruby grapefruit and candied walnuts, which was the favorite for all four of us. For our meats we ordered the caramel chicken and the clay pot beef, which was so good we ordered another full order of the beef at the end of our meal to take home (but we ended up eating it). Our noodle dishe of Thai noodles (Pad Thai) and stir fried vegetables were both delicious, but we also wanted rice with our meal so we ordered the ginger fried rice as an additional menu item. The rice was good, but one of my friends found it too spicy (I did not) and another did not like the fried egg that topped it (so one of us ate the egg without having it mixed into the rice); it a personal taste issue, but better to know before ordering it that it can be both spicy and too eggy for some people.

We wanted cake for dessert, but since only ice creams and sorbets are offered at lunch, we passed and had some great drinks, like the Champagne and lychee which was a refreshing dessert-like drink for people who don’t like strong alcohol, and some dirty martinis for those of us who like our drinks strong (like me). Even the one who ordered a Coke loved the taste, remarking that it was a “really good Coke.”

Always good to know that a place is as wonderful the second time on the day after the first visit. The decor was even more remarkable this time because it was so empty at 3pm that we had the whole place to ourselves and we felt as if we had out own private food temple in the middle of Century City; this must be what nirvana feels like.

>RockSugar was so good yesterday that I went back today with 3 friends and we ordered the prix fixe lunch for four of us as well as an additional appetizer, side dish, and main course (we were all very hungry since it was about 3pm and none of us had eaten lunch).

I am happy to report that the service was again very efficient and friendly, and our food pleased even a very picky eater who commented “I thought this would be weird, but it tastes really good.” Just goes to prove that everyone can appreciate good food if they are simply brave enough to try something different.

We had the lacquered ribs as our additional appetizer and although they were sweet and sticky, they were not cloyingly so, and meaty enough for the four of us to share one plate. Our prix fixe for four included 2 salads, so we chose the green salad and the jicama with ruby grapefruit and candied walnuts, which was the favorite for all four of us. For our meats we ordered the caramel chicken and the clay pot beef, which was so good we ordered another full order of the beef at the end of our meal to take home (but we ended up eating it). Our noodle dishe of Thai noodles (Pad Thai) and stir fried vegetables were both delicious, but we also wanted rice with our meal so we ordered the ginger fried rice as an additional menu item. The rice was good, but one of my friends found it too spicy (I did not) and another did not like the fried egg that topped it (so one of us ate the egg without having it mixed into the rice); it a personal taste issue, but better to know before ordering it that it can be both spicy and too eggy for some people.

We wanted cake for dessert, but since only ice creams and sorbets are offered at lunch, we passed and had some great drinks, like the Champagne and lychee which was a refreshing dessert-like drink for people who don’t like strong alcohol, and some dirty martinis for those of us who like our drinks strong (like me). Even the one who ordered a Coke loved the taste, remarking that it was a “really good Coke.”

Always good to know that a place is as wonderful the second time on the day after the first visit. The decor was even more remarkable this time because it was so empty at 3pm that we had the whole place to ourselves and we felt as if we had out own private food temple in the middle of Century City; this must be what nirvana feels like.

One of my friends knew about RockSugar coming to Century City’s Westfield Mall months before the restaurant opened last year, but it wasn’t until today that I actually went to try out this spectacular restaurant.

The entrance is jaw-dropping, with a comfortable outdoor waiting area set up in a garden like atmosphere, complete with tables, comfy couches, and beautiful lanterns hung high above the open space. The entire decor was shipped in from Thailand and the interior was modeled after a temple in Thailand. The first thing you see walking inside is the giant golden Buddha above the host station flanked by huge gilt columns, mirrored with another wooden Buddha above the outside patio area.

The feel of the restaurant is serene, with dark chairs, white tablecloth covered tables, and decorative fabric lined booths built for two. The gold and colored accents are just that, accents, and not at all overbearing. I asked for a seat outdoors on the wind protected patio and I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the walls outside was a cascading waterfall, adding a nice view for those seated facing the wall of the restaurant instead of Santa Monica Blvd.

My server Richard, was pleasant, attentive, and had a great sense of humor, telling me he wanted me to drink my lunch when he inadvertently handed me the wine list instead of a menu. The menu is a medley of different Asian cuisines, ranging from Pad Thai, to Pho, raw Hamachi, and lacquered BBQ ribs. There are numerous choices for vegetarians and low carb eaters as well as an ample selection of meats and fish for all the protein lovers. No matter where in Asia or Southeast Asia your palate takes you, you will find something to feast on here. I ordered the Dungeness crab with cellophane noodles but they were sold out by the time I arrived, so I went with the short ribs with vermicelli noodles instead. It was a tasty spicy mix of thinly sliced beef, sliced carrots, red chilies, cucumber, and cold vermicelli noodles served with a cut up hot eggroll of meat and clear rice noodles. It was a nice combination of cool, spicy, and hot all in one dish. This is fusion at its best. I also tried the blood orange sangria and liked it even though sangria is usually too sweet for me, this blood orange version was tart enough to for me to drink it with a smile.

Go try them for lunch with a friend because for two or more people, they offer a special prix fixe lunch menu for only $12.95 for three dishes or $14.95 for four dishes per person. Next time I will bring more people so we can all taste the varied menu at prix fixe prices and maybe split a dessert, like their home made coconut doughnuts with passion fruit sauce!

>One of my friends knew about RockSugar coming to Century City’s Westfield Mall months before the restaurant opened last year, but it wasn’t until today that I actually went to try out this spectacular restaurant.

The entrance is jaw-dropping, with a comfortable outdoor waiting area set up in a garden like atmosphere, complete with tables, comfy couches, and beautiful lanterns hung high above the open space. The entire decor was shipped in from Thailand and the interior was modeled after a temple in Thailand. The first thing you see walking inside is the giant golden Buddha above the host station flanked by huge gilt columns, mirrored with another wooden Buddha above the outside patio area.

The feel of the restaurant is serene, with dark chairs, white tablecloth covered tables, and decorative fabric lined booths built for two. The gold and colored accents are just that, accents, and not at all overbearing. I asked for a seat outdoors on the wind protected patio and I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the walls outside was a cascading waterfall, adding a nice view for those seated facing the wall of the restaurant instead of Santa Monica Blvd.

My server Richard, was pleasant, attentive, and had a great sense of humor, telling me he wanted me to drink my lunch when he inadvertently handed me the wine list instead of a menu. The menu is a medley of different Asian cuisines, ranging from Pad Thai, to Pho, raw Hamachi, and lacquered BBQ ribs. There are numerous choices for vegetarians and low carb eaters as well as an ample selection of meats and fish for all the protein lovers. No matter where in Asia or Southeast Asia your palate takes you, you will find something to feast on here. I ordered the Dungeness crab with cellophane noodles but they were sold out by the time I arrived, so I went with the short ribs with vermicelli noodles instead. It was a tasty spicy mix of thinly sliced beef, sliced carrots, red chilies, cucumber, and cold vermicelli noodles served with a cut up hot eggroll of meat and clear rice noodles. It was a nice combination of cool, spicy, and hot all in one dish. This is fusion at its best. I also tried the blood orange sangria and liked it even though sangria is usually too sweet for me, this blood orange version was tart enough to for me to drink it with a smile.

Go try them for lunch with a friend because for two or more people, they offer a special prix fixe lunch menu for only $12.95 for three dishes or $14.95 for four dishes per person. Next time I will bring more people so we can all taste the varied menu at prix fixe prices and maybe split a dessert, like their home made coconut doughnuts with passion fruit sauce!

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