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

Sushi Tsujita (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Sushi Tsujita: Tamagoyaki
Tsujita, the famous Los Angeles ramen and noodle specialists, opened four years or so ago, taking the city by storm just as the ramen craze was beginning to crest in the US. A branch of an apparently well-respected Tokyo restaurant, it has set the standard for ramen in Los Angeles (and its own branch, Tsujita Annex, opened down the street on Sawtelle not too long after). And it’s not just American ramen enthusiasts who raved about it: a few years ago when we asked Satoshi Kiyokawa (of the eponymous Kiyokawa) where he likes to eat Japanese food when he’s not in his own restaurant, he said unhesitatingly that Tsujita was the place for him. Continue reading

Crispy Pork Gang & Grill + Hoy-Ka (Los Angeles Dec 2014/Jan 2015)

Chilli Paste at Hoy Ka
It feels like only yesterday that we returned from our most recent trip to LA. Okay, so it feels like almost two and a half months, which is what it’s been. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to finishing up posting write-ups of our meals but this twofer featuring two Thai Town mainstays is the last one. It actually features the first meal we ate out on this trip—at Crispy Pork Gang & Grill. It’s fitting that the last meal report should be of two Thai meals as on this trip it was Thai food that we ate out the most.

Crispy Pork Gang & Grill is part of the mega-cluster of restaurants in the strip mall on Hollywood Blvd. off Harvard (its immediate neighbours include the venerable Ruen Pair, Red Corner Asia and Pa Ord 3) and is the more downmarket of the two. It is open 24 hours, has minimal atmosphere and functional service. The food, however, is pretty good (if not as good as it once was). Their calling card, as you might expect from their name is their crispy pork which can be gotten with a number of dishes, but that’s not all they’re good at. Continue reading

Koreatown Trio (Los Angeles, Winter 2014/2015)

Keungama: Doganitang
We eat a lot of Korean food when we’re in Los Angeles, though you might not be able to tell from my meal reports. This is because my wife’s family are Korean and so we tend to eat a lot of it at her mother’s home (where we put up) and at the homes of relatives we visit, and often also as unplanned dinners coming home from grocery shopping etc. (Korean restaurants are great for our boys who will eat their weight in galbi and rice and bone broths). If you like Korean food you really need to go to LA. Koreatown, which is one of the most intense immigrant enclaves anywhere in North America, probably has the best Korean food outside South Korea. I’ve been a little remiss in posting about posting about these meals in my last couple of series of Los Angeles restaurant write-ups and so here are three at once from our trip to LA in late December/early January. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Lunasia (Los Angeles, Winter 2014/2015)

Macao Egg Custard
My very slow slow-motion survey of the major dim sum houses in the San Gabriel valley continues with this rather excessive meal at Lunasia—which was also eaten on our trip to Los Angeles in late December/early January.

Lunasia, depending on who you ask, is currently in the third or fourth position in the SGV’s dim sum hierarchy (Sea Harbour and Elite are uncontroversially above it and some would add King Hua as well). It is located in the same space in Alhambra that once housed Triumphal Palace, and like its predecessor (and the aforementioned contemporary luminaries) it offers dim sum not from carts but from an a la carte menu. When I first started eating dim sum in L.A (back in the mid-late 90s) the chaos of the carts was a large part of the attraction but the difference in quality between food that’s rolling around a large restaurant in carts and food coming straight from the kitchen to the table as it is ready is very hard to deny.

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Kiriko (Los Angeles, Winter 2014/2015)

Kiriko, as I’ve said before, has one of the best lunch deals on the planet: miso soup, salad, 10 pieces of quality nigiri plus one handroll, served omakase-style for $46/head. It is true Shunji’s lunch special offers a couple more pieces but I’ll reiterate that I think Kiriko’s is a better deal anyway, as you get better fish. The only problem is that it’s not served to solo diners (but maybe you could just order two?).

We eat this lunch special at least once on every summer trip but I don’t write up every meal as the selection is seasonal and so doesn’t change so much from meal to meal. However, our most recent trip was at the end of December and so here’s an account of what we ate.

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Chang’s Garden for Christmas Lunch (Los Angeles, Winter 2014/2015)

Seaweed Flavoured Fish
It has been exactly a month since we got back from Los Angeles but I still have a number of restaurant meal writeups coming from the trip. We ate in the San Gabriel Valley quite a bit less than we usually do—partly on account of a couple of plans that fell through, partly because the holiday season meant very tight opportunities to see some friends and family in other parts of greater LA, partly because we went down to San Diego for a few days. We did, however, go out for Chinese food on Christmas, as we usually try to do and, despite heading to the SGV, shockingly decided against dim sum, Sichuan and Hunan. We went instead to Chang’s Garden in Arcadia for the the milder food of Hangzhou and Shanghai.

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