Monday, March 30, 2009

Tere's Mexican Grill

Tere's is a place I always think about going, but rarely do. Maybe it's the fact that the parking can be problematic (it's in a small shopping center) or that it closes at 9pm. But, I should stop by more on the weekend because I feel better about giving them my business than Chipotle.

Huevos rancheros with spicy green salsa. Simple, straight forward and a reminder that I need to accept that tomatillos don't do it for me. I like them fine, just not madly in love with 'em.

Handmade flour tortillas! Very good in a gloriously chewy way.

I've eaten here a couple times before: one time was the chorizo empanadas (good, but immense if I recall correctly) and the other was probably a burrito or enchiladas. I've read online that the guacamole is supposed to be good, so need to try it next time. And after trying their tortillas, I'm betting their tacos are splendid.

Note: their windows are very dark, so it may appear to be a place of dubious repute. But, not to worry: once you step in, it's small, but brightly lit with the American and Mexican flags tacked onto the ceiling and other jolly decor!

Tere's Mexican Grill
5870 Melrose Ave # 101
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 468-9345
Closed Sundays

Friday, March 27, 2009

Myung Dong Kyoja

Dumplings are called different things to different people. Mandoo's the word for Koreans. Considering Myung Dong Kyoja is a Korean restaurant, I have no idea why it has "kyoja" in the title, which is a re-imagined spelling of gyoza (Japanese dumplings). At any rate, here's what I ate:

Pork mandoo (Korean dumplings): most of the wrappers did not hold together during steaming, but the filling was tasty enough that I didn't mind. These mandoo were juicier than the fried kind.

Bibimguksoo (spicy cold noodles): these appeared to be green tea noodles as they were... green. Might've been an off night, but I remember this dish being better. It's been close to a year probably since my last visit, so perhaps they've gone downhill a tad.

I've made mandoo before and it's not difficult, just time consuming. You can use store-bought wrappers and mix together a simple filling of beef/pork and Asian seasonings (soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, etc.). I, for one, like to satisfy my mandoo hankerings by zipping over to Koreatown. But, you may be much more virtuous than me!

Myung Dong Kyoja
3630 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(213) 385-7789

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shrimp and Bok Choy Soup

When I picked up a large bag of bok choy at the farmers market, I figured I'd cook it with chicken stock and garlic per usual. But, on second thought, I wanted to prepare it as part of the main attraction rather than a side. So, this soup is what I came up with: a super easy knockoff to make at home when dragging yourself out to an Asian restaurant is not an option.

Bring chicken broth/stock (I use canned), garlic and ginger to a boil. Drop in some shrimp and bok choy (cook shrimp 2 minutes to avoid overcooking). Chopped green onion is a nice, but optional, touch right before eating.

I was going to throw in some thin Korean noodles, but it turns out that 1 can of chicken broth is not much liquid. As I threw in half a pound of shrimp, the soup was filling enough for a lazy Sunday lunch. There are many ways to doctor this up further: fish sauce, chiles, Asian hot sauces, etc. An Asian granny would not be impressed with my soup, but I think it makes for an acceptable alternative to overpriced restaurant versions!

Monday, March 23, 2009

La Maria

I had a one-two punch morning last Saturday: first, the farmers market where I picked up a bag of oranges, some avocados, bok choy and parsley. Then, off to La Maria, a cute Colombian/Mexican restaurant in North Hollywood, which beckoned me with its siren call of fried pork skin (nevermind that it was only 11am).

Coffee! How come lowkey Mom and Pop joints often have better tasting coffee than Starbucks?

Bandeja Paisa (steak, fried pork skin, sausage, rice, egg, fried bananas and beans all for only $11.99!)

The salsa mixture provided in the little bowl was amazing and so perfect for spooning over the steak. It was a less tomato-y and more tangy version of regular salsa with lots of cilantro and green onion (very addictive!). The food was good (the fried pork skin was my favorite) and the portions seem to be hefty (at least, that was the case for my little platter o' awesome).

La Maria's menu also offers Mexican dishes, which I did not look at closely as my mission was to have my first taste of Colombian food. They also have hearty breakfast items like huevos rancheros and chilaquiles (can we say hangover buster?). I wanted desperately to try the obleas, a Colombian dessert involving wafers and dulce de leche, but I could not power through. Sorry, I will do better next time!

La Maria
10516 Victory Blvd
North Hollywood, CA 91606
(818) 755-8811

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Intelligentsia Coffee

Charles gave me the Eat: Los Angeles book as one of my birthday presents, which is a pretty comprehensive list of the city's eateries and drinkeries. Last Saturday, I was flipping through the coffee/tea/juices section and Intelligentsia caught my eye. I first heard about this hip Silverlake coffee shop over a year ago on Oishii Eats and was intrigued, but then I kinda forgot about it. Intelligentsia now boasts Western Regional Barista champion Nick Griffith amongst its ranks and looks like it's doing well (the shop was hoppin' when I stopped by).

I loved my latte. It was very pretty, but more importantly, it tasted so smooth. I had to drink it pretty fast because I was parked at a meter several blocks away with only 30 minutes on the clock. But, thankfully, it wasn't scalding hot and was so enjoyable to drink (if I were a cat, I would have been purring). I also had an oatmeal cranberry cookie, which was chewy and made for a good morning snack.

I dug the bright blue decor and the great tasting espresso, which really puts Starbucks to shame (of course, I expected it to be better than the monster chain, but it made me sad because I'm forced to give SB my business almost daily due to location/circumstances). Next time, I'm going to try a cup of their coffee; the names sounded mystical, but promising! If I could come to Intelligentsia every morning, I would be, at least, 30% happier in life.

Intelligentsia Coffee
3922 W. Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 663-6173

Monday, March 16, 2009

Umami Burger

We finally made it to Umami Burger! Charles and I have had our eye on this place before it opened as we are into burgers lately and there's a serious dearth of reasonably priced food options near us. We both got their signature Umami* burger ($8) and shared an order of fries ($2.50).

Umami Burger: beef patty, parmesan crisp, oven-roasted tomato and shiitake mushrooms (not the most revelatory photo, but the lighting was tough)

French fries with ketchup and house sauce (a mix of dijon and maybe aioli and ketchup?)

Verdict: the burgers were awesome, the fries were not. The burgers were juicy, full of flavor and addictively delicious. I believe I had read somewhere that the fries were lackluster and mushy, but forgot all about it when we ordered, whoops!

Drink wise, they don't have alcohol, but we did enjoy an orange Crush (Charles) and an Abita root beer (me). I hope this little burger spot flourishes because I am definitely adding it to our restaurant rotation!

Umami Burger
850 S. La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 931-3000

*In case you don't know the term "umami," it is a Japanese term for the fifth taste (the four others being sweet, sour, salty and bitter); this NPR article is more informative than anything I can say.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ruen Pair

I was in a soupy mood and had cash on hand, which led me to make a direct beeline for Ruen Pair (a cash only restaurant located in the same shopping center as my standby Red Corner Asia). The BBQ duck soup was pretty good with meaty slices of duck, Chinese broccoli and wide rice noodles. One thing: I wasn't crazy about the smattering of celery in the soup (for the record, I don't hate celery but just don't care for it if given the choice). The portion is a little dainty, but I was looking for a light lunch anyhow (and it cost $5.95). For dinner, it'd be a good idea to get an appetizer or a salad as well.

I get the feeling that Ruen Pair is one of those places where a few key dishes stand out while the rest of the menu is fine (not amazing). I have not discovered which dishes those are yet, but am happy to continue with trial and error for now. Charles and I ate here a long time ago and we had a very fiery papaya salad, which I should order next time around. Can I get a what what for green papaya? No? Okay, fine, I will continue my love affair with it alone regardless of your enthusiasm.

Ruen Pair
5257 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 466-0153

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

China Depot

I ate this whole thing.

I read about China Depot's pork fried rice on Best of LA a while ago and made a mental note to check it out sometime. When I finally made a visit, I wondered if I'd be disappointed. I mean, I wanted to believe that great fried rice could come from this place (it looks very similar to Panda Express and the chicken fried rice in the heating dish did not look good), but could it really be true?

Well, after my first bite, my doubts were put to rest. The BBQ pork is tasty and in small enough morsels to not overwhelm the rice. I also liked the addition of bean sprouts and cabbage a lot (I am rather obsessed with cabbage). The fact that the fried rice was cooked to order made a big difference in taste and compelled me to steadily finish the whole portion without pausing. THAT. GOOD.

Is it worth driving miles and miles for this pork fried rice? No, after all, it's just something very simple that has been executed well and I imagine the combo special items sitting under the heating lights are not as good due to drying out, etc. But, I am so thrilled to have this little place on my radar for a quick dining option for the weekend or before a movie at the Grove. I encourage you to give this dish a whirl the next time you're at the Farmers Market!

China Depot
6333 W. 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ribeye Steak with Spinach

I love a good ribeye; it's my favorite cut of meat because of the marbling (I'm one of the fat > lean believers when it comes to flavor). Cooking steaks at home, though, sometimes feel like a production to me. First, I have to put the meat out to come up to room temperature so it's not cold going into the pan (the meat can get tough if it goes straight from the fridge to a hot pan). Then, after I cook the meat, it has to rest for 10 minutes before eating, so the juices can re-distribute and not get dry after the first bite.

NOTE: I am not a patient person when it comes to cooking, so I get antsy during this whole ritual. Still, steakhouses are not a luxury I can afford at the moment (come to think of it, I have not been to a good steakhouse since moving to LA, how weird). So, for now, I will continue getting my red meat fixes at home like the above dinner, which I ate with wilted spinach with garlic (I feel so much better about myself when I eat something green with my meals). I also made a successful red wine/mustard/chicken stock gravy to drizzle over the steak. Not too shabby! I feel such satisfaction when pan sauces come together, don't you?

Thursday, March 5, 2009


I always note places I want to try in Little Tokyo, but rarely get myself down there. But last weekend, I had a limited amount of time to find a restaurant we could grab a quick bite at. I had heard about Izayoi before and wanted to give it a whirl; more importantly, they took reservations (which we ended up being late for, but rushed in right in the nick of time).

As an izakaya (think Japanese drinking food/tapas), Izayoi has a lot of items on its menu and since we were rushed for time, we ordered a slew of things in a blur. We managed to hit just the right number of dishes for a filling dinner. What we had:

Chawan mushi (savory steamed egg that was good, but probably not the best version out there)

Japanese fried chicken (well seasoned, but I would've preferred smaller pieces)

Seafood cream croquette (very good, croquettes deserve their own national day)

Inside shot

Shrimp dumpling (substantial and tasty, Charles went gaga over this dish)

Seaweed salad (a teensy bit of seaweed, so not the kind what we were expecting at all)

We also had a couple dishes I forgot to photograph: a California roll (nothing to write home about, I ordered it to ensure we had enough food) and buta no kakuni (braised pork belly, very tender and rich in flavor). Overall, I really enjoyed our meal here and the vibe was relaxed, but the service was quick and friendly. I can't wait to come back and make my way through more of their extensive menu!

132 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-9554

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles

Being from Memphis, I miss and crave Southern food often (notably sweet tea, although I have not yet found a place out here that offers a good version). Instead of scouring the city for comfort food places, I tend to wait patiently for my next trip home. But, sometimes the spirit overtakes me too strongly and I must consume fried chicken immediately (okay, sometimes I buy it from the grocery store deli and then regret it instantly). Such was the case when I was deciding where to go for a Saturday lunch after waking up hangover-free but hungry. After I got Roscoe's in my head, I knew I had to have it and made a beeline for its Pico location.

The above picture is of the Country Boy: 3 fried chicken wings with a choice of waffle, potato salad or french fries (gotta have the waffle, come on now!). Every time I eat at Roscoe's, I order some combination of fried chicken and waffle, although they do have other items involving smothered chicken, eggs and a few other things I don't pay attention to.

FYI: Roscoe's isn't dirt cheap. My meal (with a Coke) was $11.40. I'm not saying that's terribly unreasonable, but just something to know if you've never been. Also, I don't think you can split checks.

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
5006 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 934-4405