Sushi Go 55 (Los Angeles, Winter 2015-2016)

Sushi Go 55: Chirashi
Here is the last of my meal reports from our recent trip to Los Angeles. I began those trip reports with an account of a very expensive omakase dinner at Mori and so it’s appropriate that the last one be of a quick lunch closer to the opposite end of the sushi continuum in Los Angeles: at Sushi Go 55, an unassuming restaurant in a mall in Little Tokyo that serves largely people who work in nearby businesses and for which no one (well, no one who is not on Yelp or Tripadvisor) has ever made any strong claims. We were going to be in the area and needed a quick place for lunch and given how poor the sushi scene in the Twin Cities is, were more than willing to roll the dice on an affordable fourth or fifth tier place in L.A. And wouldn’t you know it, the meal was, on the whole, superior to all my sushi outings in the Twin Cities, and far cheaper.

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Lacha Somtum (Los Angeles, 2015 & 2016)

Lacha Somtum: Papaya Salad with Blue Crab
Though I am currently in Delhi I still have a couple of Los Angeles meal reports in hand and so I’m going to sandwich them around another Delhi report this week before turning to Delhi and then Hong Kong reports in the next couple of weeks. First up is a brief writeup of two meals at Lacha Somtum, eaten a few months apart. The first one was eaten last summer but by the time I got around to starting to write it up it was so far in the rear-view mirror that I decided to wait till the next trip to eat there again and post on more of the menu. That time is now. There were just the two of us at the first meal (a lunch), and we kept it light on account of needing to board a flight very soon after; at the second meal (a dinner) we were joined by Sku and family and we got a lot more stuff. Both meals were quite good.  Continue reading

Nori (Los Angeles, Winter 2015-16)

Nori: Sake Toro
This is part of my quest to eat at Los Angeles area sushi restaurants whose names resemble those of the dwarves Bilbo Baggins accompanied to the Lonely Mountain: first Mori, now Nori; come back later in the week for Ori! Actually, no: if there is a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles named Ori, we have not eaten there. We only ended up at Nori after our meal at Mori because a) we were in search of a decent place that would be open late for lunch on a Monday and b) was not going to be a major hit on the wallet. Why even bother with cheaper sushi on a Monday when there are so many other excellent cheap eats in Los Angeles? Well, when you live in Minnesota where finding even average sushi is an achievement, and it’s priced like it’s better than that, you don’t need to eat at the upper echelons of the L.A. scene to be happy. It’s also the case that my reviews of sushi in L.A. have hitherto covered better known places and I was curious to see what hidden gems there might be out there. Well, I’m not sure if Nori quite rises to gem level but it was surprisingly good and very good value.  Continue reading

Luv2Eat Thai Bistro (Los Angeles, Winter 2015-16)

Luv2Eat Thai Bistro
As I’ve noted on multiple occasions, Los Angeles almost certainly has the best Thai food in the United States. Las Vegas may have Lotus of Siam and Portland may have Pok Pok, but Los Angeles has Thai Town with its seemingly endless series of holes in the wall on Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards. Yes, LA has seen a couple of trendier places open in the last year or so in Night+Market (and it’s spinoff, Song) and more recently two outposts of Andy Ricker’s burgeoning Pok Pok empire (which have failed to set the town on fire so far), but it’s to old Thai Town you must go to experience the breadth of what LA has to offer. From Jitlada‘s legendary and expansive southern Thai menu to more abbreviated regional proffers at Pailin or Lacha Somtum, from boat noodles at Sapp to Muslim dishes at Kruang Tedd, Thai Town has enough to keep both the specialist and the generalist happy.  Continue reading

Szechuan Impression (Los Angeles, Winter 2015-16)

Szechuan Impression
Szechuan Impression opened in 2014 and almost immediately became the major rival to Chengdu Taste in what could be called the second major wave of Sichuan restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. The first wave, by my reckoning, crested in the early 2000s with the debut of Chung King in Monterey Park (on Garfield). Chung King carried on for a decade and a half (about three lifetimes in the SGV), moving to new digs in San Gabriel in the process, but by the time they ignominiously folded up last year they had well and truly been eclipsed by the new standard bearer, Chengdu Taste. I will note, however, that the coverage of Chengdu Taste always seemed to me to forget how good Chung King had been in its prime. Still, Chengdu Taste’s newer dishes were a revelation and their greater attention to ambience was also a far cry from the utilitarian aesthetic of Chung King and Yunkun Garden and co. One way to describe Szechuan Impression is to say that it goes further along both of those axes.  Continue reading

Mori Sushi (Los Angeles, Winter 2015-16)

Mori Sushi: Kohada
My first restaurant review of 2015 was of a dinner omakase at Shunji and so it seems fitting that my last restaurant review of the year is of an omakase meal at Mori. Shunji, Mori and perhaps Zo are the three sushi bars that are likely to be near the top of most Los Angeles sushi aficionados’ lists—though some make the case as well for the recently opened Q, and some for the far less classical Kiriko . (I’m not counting Urasawa here both because the base experience there costs several hundred percent more and because it’s known as much, if not more, for its kaiseki dishes as for its sushi per se.)  Continue reading

Sushi Nozomi (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Nozomi: Unagidon
Nozomi is in Torrance, a city in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County, but for the purposes of my reviews Los Angeles more or less refers to all of LA County (the San Gabriel Valley isn’t part of the city of Los Angeles either). Torrance has a very large Japanese population, especially as a percentage of the total population. A large part of this stems from Toyota opening its US headquarters there in the late 1960s, followed by other companies. Nissan moved out in 2006 and, more seismically, Toyota announced plans to move to Texas last year. This has doubtless been a big blow to the many businesses that cater to Japanese executives—a clientele that has also driven the high quality of Japanese food in Los Angeles at large. It remains to be seen what the long-term effect will be, or if there’s now going to be a Japanese food renaissance in Plano, Texas (which is where Toyota is going). Continue reading

Shaanxi Gourmet (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Shaanxi Gourmet
I know New Yorkers who get very exercised about the notion that the best Chinese food in the US can be found not in New York but in the San Gabriel Valley outside Los Angeles. Of course, the denial of this fact (which has been true for a long time now) is proclaimed most loudly by people who have never left New York; all New Yorker transplants to Los Angeles I’ve known who venture out to the San Gabriel Valley come to subscribe to it very quickly. Then again New Yorkers are a famously sensitive, vulnerable people and it is understandable that many of them have difficulty dealing with a shift in one of the beliefs that is a cornerstone of their identity.

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Chengdu Taste II (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Chengdu Taste: Boiled Fish with Green Pepper Sauce
It’s been more than a month since I got back from Los Angeles but I still have a number of meal reports to go. After a string of sushi reports here now is a brief account of our return to Chengdu Taste in late July. Our lunch there was one of the highlights of our trip last summer; despite noting in the write-up of that meal that we’d be back on each trip, we unaccountably failed to go in December. Well, there was going to be no such error on this trip. Once again we escaped the long lines by going for lunch on a weekday, not too long after they opened. We still had to wait but not for very long. And this time we had our table to ourselves. While the restaurant was full throughout, it does appear that the opening of the new branches in Rosemead and Rowland Heights have eased the pressure somewhat (our meal was again at the original Alhambra location). Though I’m sure weekend lunches still draw the lines.

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Sasabune (Beverly Hills)

Blue Crab Handroll
It’s been a bit of a tradition for us to eat lunch at Kiyokawa on our summer trips to L.A. Our first meal there was on our anniversary and even though we’ve always been back a month or so past our anniversary on subsequent trips we’ve always considered it our anniversary meal. Imagine our disappointment then on rolling up to their door three weeks ago and being told that they’re now dinner-only. There was also a sign on the window marking the transfer of their liquor license to a new owner. As the door was open I asked the staff member behind the bar if Satoshi Kiyokawa was still in charge of the food; he assured me he is and that the ownership change hasn’t changed anything else. (I assume this is why they may have left the door open when not in fact open: to reassure people who may ask that Kiyokawa is still Kiyokawa.) A big disappointment for us as it was not possible to eat dinner on this trip (I left the next day and had plans to meet Michael K. for dinner elsewhere that night). Still, if anyone has eaten at Kiyokawa since the change and can reassure me further please write in below. Continue reading

Sushi Sushi (Beverly Hills)

Sushi Sushi: Sashimi Course
I have a large number of meal reports left from my Los Angeles trip which ended two weeks ago, a number of them of sushi lunches. So as to not give you mercury poisoning from too many sushi meal reports in a row, I’m going to space them out. Here first is a brief account of a lunch omakase at Sushi Sushi in Beverly Hills.

Sushi Sushi is located right off Robertson on Beverly Drive. While there are some who praise it highly, it’s not really in the upper echelons of Los Angeles’ sushi scene; but we can’t afford to eat only at that level. As it happens, we liked our meal fine but it had the unexpected effect of making us appreciate all the more our more expensive omakase at Sushi Tsujita. Continue reading

Isaan Station Again (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Isaan Station: Tom Super
I ate at Isaan Station twice on our last trip to Los Angeles. On neither occasion was I accompanied by the missus and kids and I was thus resolved that we would go back together on this trip (it also helps that Isaan Station is in Koreatown and not Thai Town). While they do not have the dish that the boys are guaranteed to eat (chicken/pork satays) I knew they (and the missus) would love their wondrous grilled chicken and/or any of the other grilled meats; and that the missus would, at a minimum, also love whichever earthy, spicy soup we got. So it proved to be.
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Dim Sum at China Red (Los Angeles, July 2015)

China Red: Congee
China Red is a relatively recent addition to the top-end of the dim sum scene in the San Gabriel Valley—which is, of course, the best, from top to bottom, in the United States. It opened less than two years ago and gained a strong reputation very strongly. And, unlike another recent opening, Shi Hai, it has managed to hold on to that reputation. We didn’t eat there on our last few trips because a) I am always a little leery about new, hyped places; b) it’s in Arcadia, which is on the far end of the San Gabriel Valley from our home base in Koreatown; and c) relatedly, it’s hard to justify driving out that far when Sea Harbour, Elite, Lunasia and King Hua are all so much closer. It’s for this reason that we didn’t end up eating dim sum on this trip with Sku and his family as originally planned (we ended up at a different place with them, on which more later)—he was loth to drive the extra 10-15 minutes to Arcadia. We, however, were already going to be in the SGV in the middle of the week, last week, and so decided to cut across to Arcadia and finally check China Red out. Continue reading

Mei Long Village (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Mei Long Village: Shanghai Spareribs
One of my very first Los Angeles meal reports on the blog was of a dinner at Shanghai #1 Seafood Village, a then relatively recently opened and somewhat snazzy restaurant. I noted there that the strong reviews it had received particularly made me want to eat there as there are no Shanghai restaurants in Minnesota. This is still true (as far as I know); but, of course, it is not true that Shanghai #1 was in any way a Shanghai cuisine innovator in the San Gabriel Valley. My report today is of a meal at one of the mainstays of the Shanghai scene in the area, the very far from snazzy Mei Long Village. Continue reading