Los Angeles

[Los Angeles] Mendocino Farms - for the BEST badass sandwiches and salads!

Categories: Sandwiches, Salads, New American
Address: Multiple locations across California (mostly LA)
Location Visited: 175 S. Fairfax Ave Suite B, Los Angeles, California 90036
Date Visited: July 2017
Price: $$ 
Hours: Mon-Sun 11am–9pm

Summary: Where do I even begin to confess my love for Mendocino Farms? Mendo was my go-to spot back when I lived in LA from 2010-2015 for when I wanted something quick, fresh, healthy and hearty. As I'm typing this, I realize these attributes are rarely ascribed to a single restaurant as they're often conflicting. BUT NOT AT MENDOCINO FARMS! Using only fresh, organic ingredients (sourced in nearby farms - hence the name) and charging very reasonable prices, offering hefty portions and serviced some of the happiest staff I've ever seen in the F&B industry, this place will always be one of my favorites!

I miss it every day since I moved away from California. On a recent trip to LA, I brought a friend who's never tried Mendo and not only did he order a second sandwich after loving the first one (and these sandwiches are not small, I tell you), he wanted to come back again before we left on your short 4-day trip. It's that good!

Anyhow, back to the sandwiches. Mendo is incredibly accommodating - whether you're avoiding dairy, soy, gluten, nuts, or meat - they are happy to adapt. A heavenly place that caters to all dietary needs/restrictions/allergies. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free... come and they'll offer something ACTUALLY TASTY for you! 

Personal favorites (but you really can't go wrong with anything): Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi sandwich, Modern Tuna "Almost Melt," Peruvian Steak Sandwich, Save Drake Farm's Salad

www.mendocinofarms.com
www.instagram/mendocinofarms

mendocino-farms-restaurant

Mendocino Farms

Los Angeles

  Peruvian Steak Sandwich ( $11.25) - spicy aji amarillo marinated Creekstone Farms steak with Oaxacan cheese, herb aioli, red onions, tomatoes, shredded romaine on panini-pressed torta bun (avocado +$1)

Peruvian Steak Sandwich ($11.25) - spicy aji amarillo marinated Creekstone Farms steak with Oaxacan cheese, herb aioli, red onions, tomatoes, shredded romaine on panini-pressed torta bun
(avocado +$1)

  Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi  ($10.95) - playful take on the popular Vietnamese sandwich with braised, caramelized Kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon & carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, chili aioli on panini-pressed ciabatta

Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi ($10.95) - playful take on the popular Vietnamese sandwich with braised, caramelized Kurobuta pork belly, housemade pickled daikon & carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, jalapenos, chili aioli on panini-pressed ciabatta

  Custom Salad  - butter lettuce & romaine, shaved, roasted Mary's organic free range chicken breast, pink lady beets, green apples, cranberry sauce on the side  SO FRESH AND TASTY! One of the best salads I've ever had. The produce really does matter. I've had similar salads before in terms of ingredients but they don't taste nearly as good. 

Custom Salad - butter lettuce & romaine, shaved, roasted Mary's organic free range chicken breast, pink lady beets, green apples, cranberry sauce on the side

SO FRESH AND TASTY! One of the best salads I've ever had. The produce really does matter. I've had similar salads before in terms of ingredients but they don't taste nearly as good. 

 SORRY baby  @gofindtoro  but none for you today!

SORRY baby @gofindtoro but none for you today!

 "Don't make a move, hooomans think I'm a statue!" -   @gofindtoro

"Don't make a move, hooomans think I'm a statue!" -  @gofindtoro

 "Okay I give up." :p FEED ME!  - @gofindtoro

"Okay I give up." :p FEED ME! - @gofindtoro

[Los Angeles] Green Zone Cuisine

Green Zone Cuisine

Categories: Chinese, Asian Fusion
Address: 534 E Valley Blvd (Ste 4-5), San Gabriel, CA 91776
Hours: 11am-10pm everyday except Tuesdays
Price: ~$20per person
Verdict: DEFINITELY. If you're looking for the best Hainan Chicken Rice around LA, look no further. If I could eat here everyday, I would. The food is consistently outstanding and everything on the menu is great. Asian fusion options such as salads and pastas available too. 

www.greenzonerestaurant.com | Instagram: @greenzonecuisine | (626) 288-9300 

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Hands down one of my favorite restaurants in the Greater LA area. It is my go-to restaurant whenever I'm craving something Asian and healthy. It's not posh and it doesn't necessarily serve exotically creative dishes. It is, however, always clean, dependent and satisfying.   

I've eaten at Green Zone Countless times and I've never been disappointed or dissatisfied. Having tried practically every single dish on the menu, from appetizers to inputs, I can vouch that everything here is terrific and consistently reliable in both taste and quality. The ingredients used in all of their dishes are organic; an uncommon attribute in most (affordable) Chinese restaurants. Most, if not all, offerings are non-greasy, health-conscious and nutritious. Taste, nonetheless, is not compromised. Win-win!

Here are the dishes I would recommend: mini spicy wontons (紅油抄手), stir-fry organic vegetables (有機時蔬), steamed cabbage gyoza with pork & shrimp (手工擀皮白菜豬肉鮮蝦餃子), mushroom salad (綜合鮮菇色拉), wonton noodle soup with green noodles (雲吞湯面), Asian grilled organic chicken rice dish (香烤有機雞排) and definitely their signature organic Hainan chicken rice (有機海南雞飯).

The Hainan chicken rice comes with a generous portion of poached, organic skinless boneless and tender chicken parts, a bowl-portion of lemongrass rice, and three different kinds of sauces (sweet soy glazed sauce, ground ginger scallion paste, garlic chili sauce). You can opt to have it "farmer's style" for $ 1 extra (not listed on menu) in which you get served in a bowl (instead of on a plate) with more chicken and more rice. 

   Organic Hainan Chicken Rice    (  有機海南雞飯)  : Poached organic boneless, skinless chicken over lemongrass rice, served with ground ginger scallion paste, garlic chili sauce & sweet soy sauce on the side. Picture above is served "farmer's style."

Organic Hainan Chicken Rice (有機海南雞飯): Poached organic boneless, skinless chicken over lemongrass rice, served with ground ginger scallion paste, garlic chili sauce & sweet soy sauce on the side. Picture above is served "farmer's style."

   
  
 
  
    
  
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      Mushroom Salad    (  綜合鮮菇沙律)  : Organic baby mixed greens and butter lettuce top with organic crimini, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, tossed with miso lime dressing. Picture above is the mushroom salad with  added poached chicken  . 

Mushroom Salad (綜合鮮菇沙律): Organic baby mixed greens and butter lettuce top with organic crimini, shiitake and enoki mushrooms, tossed with miso lime dressing. Picture above is the mushroom salad with added poached chicken

Service is outstanding for a Chinese restaurant. I have received complimentary ice cream and other food items numerous times on the house as compensation for unfulfilled requests or misplaced orders. The owners and servers are very accommodating and will do what they can to help you have an amazing meal.

I can not recommend this place enough. Please go fill up your tummy with some comforting and healthy Chinese food! 

[Los Angeles] Nozawa Bar

Nozawa Bar

Categories: Japanese, Sushi Bar
Address: 212 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA
Hours: Mon-Thurs 7:30 pm. Fri & Sat 6:00 pm or 8:30 pm (2 seatings).
            By reservation-only (online or phone)
Price: $150 per person, without drinks and before tax & tip.
Verdict: DEFINITELY. If you’re planning for a dinner date, a birthday celebration, anniversary or any other special occasion, you should make a reservation here. Alternatively, if you just love food and feel like spoiling yourself or somebody else, go ahead and make a reservation here as well. Note though, due to limited seating, big parties would not be a good idea here.

www.nozawabar.com | (424) 216-6158

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An intimate 10-seat reservation-only sushi bar, Nozawa Bar is one of my favorite restaurants in LA. I was already a huge fan of the original Sugarfish establishments so imagine my elation and excitement when I heard about the enterprise’s new concept. Hidden in the back corner of its Beverly Hills Sugarfish location, Nozawa Bar is Sugarfish’s  more deluxe, omakase-only sibling restaurant. I guess you can consider it their flagship store.

However, unlike Sugarfish, there is no a la-carte menu here. Omakase means “chef’s pick,” or in other words, the chef will dictate and alter the day’s menu according to the freshest fish available in the market that morning. Nozawa Bar goes above and beyond in both food quality and experience compared to Sugarfish (though don’t get me wrong – I still go to Sugarfish when I’m trying to save money in my piggy bank). You can read one of my first-ever posts on Sugarfish here.  

What’s worth noting is that compared to other omakase-focused restaurants in LA, NB is more heavily nigiri and sashimi focused, rather than on its cooked dishes (like they do at Shunji). Unsurprisingly then, you’ll find some of the best quality raw fish in town here.

Chef Osamu Fujita, long time friend of Nozawa himself, is the executive chef behind this establishment and is probably the friendliest and most sociable sushi chefs that I have personally encountered. With a few decades of sushi-making experience behind his belt all over Japan, San Diego, Miami and Las Vegas, Chef Fujita is highly regarded. Not only did he receive recognition as a Master Chef from the Japanese Chef Association in Tokyo, he was again accorded with its Highest Achievement Award in 2008. Beyond these ceremonious titles, Chef Fujita is personable and humorous, which makes the dining experience seem more like a relaxed but elaborate Japanese dinner party.

Moving onto the food. My omakase experience was 20-22 coursed, presented in order as follows. Click on the photos to enlarge! My favorites were the Tahitan toro nigiri (they melted in my mouth, no kidding), Kusshi oysters, the Santa Barbara uni nigiri, ankimo (monkfish liver), Maine lobster nigiri and the Alaska ikura (salmon eggs) gunkan nigiri.

  1. Japanese Jellyfish
  2. Japanese Live Octopus, Tahitian Bigeye Tuna, Alaskan King Crab, Japanese Wakame
  3. Tahitian Bigeye Toro nigiri
  4. Japanese Isaki nigiri
  5. East Coast Engawa ("Halibut fin") nigiri
  6. Santa Barbara Uni nigiri
  7. Hokkaido Scallop nigiri
  8. Japanese Akamutsu (Ruby snapper) nigiri
  9. Hawaiian Kutsuo (Skipjack) nigiri
  10. Yamashiro Ume Shiro handroll
  11. Kumamoto, Kusshi, Shigoku oysters
  12. Ankimo (Monkfish liver)
  13. Boston Sawara (Sierra) nigiri
  14. Maine Lobster nigiri
  15. Alaska Ikura (Salmon eggs) gunkan nigiri
  16. Japanese Tachiuo (Beltfish) nigiri
  17. Santa Barbara Sweet Shrimp nigiri
  18. Santa Barbara Baby Squid nigiri
  19. Maine Lobster Handroll
  20. Tamago (Apricot Lane eggs) nigiri
  21. Hojicha tea (roasted green tea)
  22. Passion Fruit Sorbet & Farmers market berries

 

I was fortunate enough to come here as a celebratory dinner after completing my stomach treatment thanks to a special person who encouraged me to finish all of my medication. Needless to say, my tummy came and left happily. Definitely looking forward to my next meal at Nozawa Bar! :)

If you have any questions, feel free to message me.

Cheers,

Alice

[Los Angeles] Carmela Ice Cream

Categories: Ice Cream, Dessert
Address: 7920 W. 3rd Street, Los Angeles 90048
Hours: Mon-Sun Noon - 11pm
Price: $3.75/one scoop, $4.75/two scoops, $5.75/three scoops
Verdict: One of the best artisan ice cream spots in LA! Try their earl grey and salted caramel flavors. 

www.carmelaicecream.com| (323) 944-0232

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carmela-ice-cream-la

As a huge gelato/ice cream fan, I have been to almost all the ice cream parlors in LA that people claim are worth going to. 

However, I find myself coming back to Carmela again and again for their consistently creamy and flavorful artisan ice cream. Made in house, their ice cream is always thick, rich and smooth. If you're a fan of gelato, you'll like this place. 

 

 

You can different sample flavors but I strongly recommend their earl grey and salted caramel, as well as their chocolate sorbet (it's SO THICK that it's hard to believe it's actually just sorbet! I would have totally believed it's actually gelato.)

Prices here are a bit steeper than other ice cream places but trust me, it's worth the extra buck!

[Los Angeles] Wolvesmouth

Wolvesmouth

Categories: Supper Club
Address: Undisclosed
Date visited: September 2014
Price: by donation (what you think the meal is worth)

wolvesmouth.com | info@wolvesmouth.com
For reservations: join the mailing list at http://wolvesmouth.com/mailing-list

-- 

Thanks to a very special person who put in exceptional effort to make me a happy fat piggie, I had the pleasure of being invited to dine at one of Wolvesmouth’s private underground supper experiences this week. It’s been called the “toughest reservation in LA” because there is no guaranteed waitlist or secret password to get in. In fact, there aren’t even routine gatherings on scheduled days or weeks; sometimes there are none, or occasionally once or twice weekly. Each time, Thorton handpicks eight or nine invitees from the thousands requested and these lucky attendees are notified via email of their invite date. Each can bring a guest.

Located at Chef Craig Thorton’s very own “wolvesden”—a Downtown LA loft, which I presume is also where this culinary artist lives—the dinner’s exact address is disclosed only to the invitees the morning of. That night, I had an all-round exquisite meal—the most beautiful I’ve had in Los Angeles yet (and hard to beat, I would say…).

For a rough idea, imagine this: Gather an intimate party of <20 foodies. Give them space to mingle and exchange in a cozy, open-kitchen-dining-room; surround them with raw and provocative abstract art pieces; and unwind the urban tension with an ambient-fitting soundtrack that plays fluidly throughout the night (the songs of which will match with the pace and taste of each dish). And, of course, present a parade of eclectic but balanced dishes that are almost too pretty to eat. No caviar, foie gras, bone marrow or [insert animal] paté; nor do you have scallops, filet mignon or panna cotta dusted with gold leaves. It was avant-garde yet humble—all pretentiousness at typical tasting-menu-only fine-dine restaurants whipped away.

To those unfamiliar with Craig Thorton, he earned a position on Zagat’s first “30 under 30” list in Los Angeles. His instinctive and hypersensitive oral sensory developed, ironically, through humdrum beginnings. Having to grow up on government-backed food stamps and groceries, he says on The New Yorker, “I had a lot of bad, so I can detect bad quickly. I can taste it. I know when a piece of meat has been sitting and reheated, because it has the same flavor as that canned meat.”

Thorton’s delicacies were nothing short of splendor. Aesthetically, they were original, expressive and a mosaic of colors; palate-wise, they were flavorful, soothing and sharp.

 The crew prepping our food.

The crew prepping our food.

 Beginning of the plating of course #1.

Beginning of the plating of course #1.

 Here are the nine-courses I had that night: 

  ribeye cap. beef tongue pelmeni. strawberry. horseradish. rhubarb. dill. cabbage. beet.&nbsp;

ribeye cap. beef tongue pelmeni. strawberry. horseradish. rhubarb. dill. cabbage. beet. 

  halibut. green apple. squid ink hollandaise. sourdough. potato proliferole.

halibut. green apple. squid ink hollandaise. sourdough. potato proliferole.

  albacore. masago yuzu kosho crunch. cucumber. dashi gelée. ponzu. crème fraiche.   The color alone blew me away at once. Purple masago with dashi gelée? I feel like a unicorn. So this is what they eat... :D

albacore. masago yuzu kosho crunch. cucumber. dashi gelée. ponzu. crème fraiche.

The color alone blew me away at once. Purple masago with dashi gelée? I feel like a unicorn. So this is what they eat... :D

  corn. dungeness crab. cheddar fritter. apricot. buttermilk. lime. jalapeno.   Never imagined corn and apricot complemented each other so well. I was thoroughly impressed and inspired by this soup. I wanted to lick the plate clean. Definitely of my favorites of the night.

corn. dungeness crab. cheddar fritter. apricot. buttermilk. lime. jalapeno.

Never imagined corn and apricot complemented each other so well. I was thoroughly impressed and inspired by this soup. I wanted to lick the plate clean. Definitely of my favorites of the night.

  rabbit. cashew cheese. padion. kyoko. tomatillo. serrano. avocado. long bean.   The rabbit was finely minced and presented in the form of a croquette. Sorry bunnies… but hop right into my tummy please.

rabbit. cashew cheese. padion. kyoko. tomatillo. serrano. avocado. long bean.

The rabbit was finely minced and presented in the form of a croquette. Sorry bunnies… but hop right into my tummy please.

  pork belly. bbq pinquinto beans. pickled watermelon. romano bean. squash blossom. chipotle.

pork belly. bbq pinquinto beans. pickled watermelon. romano bean. squash blossom. chipotle.

  &nbsp;  chicken thigh. pimento cheese. chicken skin. okra. zucchini. tomato. brioche. melon. peanut.

 chicken thigh. pimento cheese. chicken skin. okra. zucchini. tomato. brioche. melon. peanut.

  honey steamed cake. honey coconut crunch. ricotta. nectarine. cornbread honey ice cream.

honey steamed cake. honey coconut crunch. ricotta. nectarine. cornbread honey ice cream.

This dish just killed it. There are no words to describe how mind-blowingly orgasmic the cornbread honey ice cream was. It had a peanut-butter creamy consistency, along with a bit of wheaty-granola crunch. It's like a thousand million happy cells exploding in your mouth. Just as I thought the meal wouldn't get any better... it did. The honey coconut crunch is also beyond this world. Hands down my favorite dish of the night. (Even my companion, who does not generally like or eat dessert, praised the dish for being the best he's ever had and would love to have more.

  key lime tart. yuzu. peach. green tea. black sesame tofu mousse. &nbsp;

key lime tart. yuzu. peach. green tea. black sesame tofu mousse. 

To say that dining at Wolvesmouth is an artistic culinary journey is an understatement; it is a soulful almost-visceral experience... a perfect union of food, art, and music. I can only hope to return soon again.

[Los Angeles] The Daily Dose

Categories: Café, Breakfast & Brunch
Address: 1820 Industrial St,  Ste 104, Los Angeles 90021
Hours: Mon-Fri 7am - 8pm, Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-3pm
Date visited: January 2014
Price: $10 per person
Verdict: What a fabulous cute little gem tucked away behind an alleyway in the Arts District. Forget Urth Caffe. Come here for coffee, tea, brunch or dinner if you want to eat near Downtown LA. Just come. 

www.dailydoseinc.com | (213) 281-9300

You might feel like you entered the wrong address into your GPS. Don't worry, you didn't. It just takes a little more effort to find, but trust me it's worth is. You're in the right place. It's Keep looking. 

Everything here is made in-house, with unprocessed and the freshest ingredients. The restaurant's philosophy is to serve "honest" food, meaning that everything is organic and most of their produce come from their own yards and ranch. If not, they're sourced from trusted vendors. 

The menu consists of a variety of: breakfast foods (eg. omelettes, eggs) and healthy but hearty lunch/dinner specials. 

  The Sunny Side ($9)&nbsp; - 3 sunny side up eggs in olive oil, served with arugula salad, sweet potato, with baguette and housemade butter/jam

The Sunny Side ($9) - 3 sunny side up eggs in olive oil, served with arugula salad, sweet potato, with baguette and housemade butter/jam

Beautiful and delicious!

[Los Angeles] Huge Tree Pastry - Taiwanese Breakfast Heaven

Categories: Chinese, Taiwanese, Breakfast & Brunch
Address: Suite 105-106, 423 N Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754
Hours: Mon-Sun 7:00am - 6:30pm
Date visited: November 2013
Price: <$10 per person. 
Verdict: It's CASH ONLY and service isn't amazing but the food is satisfying and authentic. Come here if you want legit Taiwanese breakfast food!
 

豆浆 Sweet soy milk ($2.5). Add your own sugar. 

 Soy milk

雪菜肉丝面 Noodle soup with mustard greens and shredded pork ($6.25)

白菜水饺 Napa cabbage & pork dumplings 10pcs ($6.25)

 Noodles with preserved vegetables and shredded pork
 Cabbage dumplings

咸豆花 Salty bean curd/tofu ($3.25). 
Topped with pork sung and preserved vegetables. Perfect comfort food. 

 Salty bean curd

葱油饼加蛋 Scallion pancakes with eggs ($4.25) 

 Scallion pancakes with eggs

牛肉卷饼 Beef rolls ($6.5)

 Beef rolls

[Los Angeles] Sqirl (2)

Categories:  Bakery, Breakfast/Brunch, Specialty Store, Café, American (New) 
Address:  720 N Virgil Ave, Los Angeles, 90029 (Silver Lake)
Hours:  Mon - Fri 6:30 am - 4 pm
             Sat - Sun 8 am - 4 pm

Date visited: October 2013
Price: ~$12-15 per person
Verdict:  A MUST!!! My kind of "happy food."

www.sqirlla.com | Yelp | (323) 284-8147

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 Cute little Sqirl pumpkin decor

My friend who was visiting town wanted to grab breakfast on a Thursday morning. “8:30a.m.,” he said. My goodness. Hm, alright, I thought to myself, Sqirl it is.

If I have to rise early from my pristine bed, then wherever we’re going to eat better be damn worth it.

I mentioned in my previous review that Sqirl is an indie, very hipster “toast and coffee” sort of place. It’s located in the not-so-scenic area of Silverlake, and the storefront itself isn’t fancy either.  I’m sure that when my friend arrived, he either must have thought he entered the wrong address or that I am crazy for bringing him here. I guess from the outside, it really doesn’t look like the type of place you’d take a visitor. But let me tell you, I think he left with a more-than-satisfied tummy and smile.   

At 8:30 in the morning, the place was already packed.

Of course I wanted coffee. I ordered the regular drip, in which they serve in a cutesy glass jar. You also get a small porcelain cup to help cool the coffee down when you want to drink it. The coffee was smooth, light and perfect the way it was. It need no milk or sugar, although diluted cane sugar and milk are available if you want it (also served in beautiful glass bottles).

Drip Coffee ($3.5) 

 Cute coffee, milk and cane sugar glass jars

Cute coffee, milk and cane sugar glass jars

I didn’t get to try their quintessential Kukuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl last time, so I knew I had to get it this time. There are two versions:

  • Regular: Kokuho Rose Brown Rice Bowl with sorrel pesto, preserved meyer lemon, lacto fermented hot sauce, black radish, French sheep feta, and a poached egg ($7.5)

  • Vegan  (“The Stella”) – greens & radish instead of the poached egg/feta ($9)

I ordered The Stella. The simple, comfort-food ingredients were very well harmonized. The light and tangy lemony-flavored pesto was blissfully infused with the rice, and hit the spot perfectly. I’m not used to eating rice this early, but this dish was thoughtfully crafted and not heavy at all. It was quite refreshing, in fact. 

 "The Stella"

"The Stella"

My friend ordered the Burnt Brioche Toast, house ricotta, seasonal jam ($7).
It looks fabulous and although I didn’t try, I can tell from the look on my friend’s face that it was good.

 Burnt Brioche Toast,&nbsp;House Ricotta, Seasonal Jam&nbsp;

Burnt Brioche Toast, House Ricotta, Seasonal Jam 

 Inside of the Burnt Brioche Toast

Inside of the Burnt Brioche Toast

Happy Halloween!

[Los Angeles] Red Medicine (CLOSED)

Categories: Fusion, Vietnamese, American (New)
Address: 8400 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Hours: Mon-Sun, 6:00pm – 2:00am
Date visited: October 2013
Reservations: Yes
Total bill: ~$440 for four people, excluding tip ($65 tasting menu/pp, a bottle of Tegernseerhof Smaragd ‘Steinertal’, Wachau 2010 ($92), 3 cocktails & extras)
Verdict: While I have to applaud this place for its creativity and boldness, most of the dishes we tried lacked balance and congruity. Daring, but maybe too much so. I am usually a big fan of unorthodox contemporary fusion dishes, but surprisingly the food I enjoyed most here were the least experimental ones. Some of the dishes were just too multifaceted and overloaded with ingredients. I like the concept and I'm glad I tried it out, but I'm not sure if I'll come back again.

On a side note, all the drinks were solid. The bartender for sure knew what he was doing. 

www.redmedicinela.com | (323) 651-5500

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Background

 

I’ve heard a lot about Red Medicine’s ingenious and elaborate plating, but what about the food itself? I was given mixed reviews by my foodie friends but in the end my curiosity and love for both Vietnamese and New American food outweighed my doubts and prompted me to check this place out.

To preface, the founder and chef Jordan Kahn isn’t Vietnamese. In fact, he’s not even Asian. In the past, he worked as pastry chef at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry (Yountville) and Grant Achatz’s Alinea (Chicago), where he was offered the position of head pastry chef. He declined the offer and moved to New York to become pastry chef at Varietal (Manhattan). After gaining nationwide recognition for his “highly artistic” talents, he moved to San Francisco at age 23 to work at Michael Mina’s flagship eatery. In the next year, however, he spent most of his time traveling around North America to help Mina open up new restaurants (Bourbon Steak in Detroit and Miami, SaltWater in Detroit, and Nemi in Mexico City). When Mina’s L.A. flagship restaurant, XIV, opened its doors in 2008, Kahn finally decided to settle down and served as XIV’s head pastry chef. There, he challenged norms, defied convention and distinguished himself as an innovative chef in the culinary world. In 2010, he was named "StarChefs.com Rising Star" and eventually left to open his own restaurant Red Medicine.

Menu: 6-course tasting menu ($65) or a-la-carte dinner menu. We opted with the tasting menu, but also ordered a Banh Mi from the bar menu. Beverage pairing ($35) is also available with the tasting menu.

[Note: There were four of us and we all ordered the tasting menu. All the dishes were served for two people (as in two people share each dish). Makes me wonder how they would accommodate an odd numbered party. Although I don’t mind sharing with others, I can imagine how this might be a problem for some.]

TASTING MENU

Course 1: Wild Brook TROUT ROE buried beneath a savory lemon custard, sunflower seed granola, raw snap peas and an ice made from their shells, extra virgin sunflower seed oil, frozen yogurt powder, dried meringue made from onion juice, tender pea vines, baby onion bulbs brined in vinegar.

Imagine an aquarium. The first thing that popped into my head was: fish bowl? The ingredients are layered, parfait-style, in a large spherical bowl. It tasted like an explosion of different flavors, textures, layers, and temperatures. A very interesting start—I didn’t love it but it was worth trying.

 A scoop of the mixed ingredients

A scoop of the mixed ingredients

Course 2: A custard of FRESH CREAM surrounded by young anthocyanin roots, legumes, and stalks, roasted walnut marzipan, dried cabbage, sour rhubarb juice infused with fragrant verbena.

Imagine a garden. A very colorful plate of edible flower arrangements surrounding a pool of crème fraiche. To be honest I don’t know what the highlight of this dish is. The cream was bland, but I guess eating flowers is quite special? Looks better than it tastes. 

custard_cream_redmedicine.jpg

Course 3: DUNGENESS CRAB FROM THE OREGON COAST, seasoned with an emulsion made from its shell and liver, wrapped in crystal lettuce and grilled over Japanese charcoal, fermented garlic paste, passion fruit juice thickened with egg yolks, mushrooms, tubers, spicy leaves and herbs.

Imagine a nest. Decorated with fried crispy strings of phyllo dough and fermented garlic paste on the side, this was unique but not the most appealing looking. The crunchy thin strips really reminded me of a Chinese snack, 散子 (deep-fried thin wheat straws). Interesting choice; I approve. The crabmeat was good too but really, it’s hard to go wrong with crabmeat. Solid dish but I expected it to be more special. 

redmedicine_dungeness_crab.jpg
 Close-up of crab

Close-up of crab

Course 4: Young POTATOES, gently poached in a cream of cultured sweet butter and yeast, crisp rice dumplings, wild grasses, flowers, and succulents foraged from the Malibu coast, an aromatic sauce of raw wheatgrass and chive juice.

Imagine a … well, bowl of potato balls. Most disappointing dish of all. Potatoes were soft but why am I being served a big bowl of potato balls at a Vietnamese restaurant? The wheatgrass/chive sauce was bitter and sour. None of us liked it. Our plate was pretty much untouched when the waiter took it away.

potatoes_redmedicine.jpg

Course 5: LAMB’S SHOULDER, slow-roasted with Sequoia redwood shoots, ripe and unripe mango, yellow roots, preserved mustard seeds, puffed soymilk skin, wild yarrow leaves.

Imagine a lamb shoulder served in a beautiful way. Yes, the lamb was tender and tasty but there’s nothing too special about it. Probably the most conventional dish of all. I liked it simply because I was still hungry given my disappointed with all the previous dishes.

lamb_shoulder_redmedicine.jpg

Course 6 (Dessert):  SHAVED ICE OF BIRCH, sour red currant berries and jelly, crème chiboust flavored with jasmine flowers, crispy rice crackers, verbena bubbles, roasted almond praline.

Imagine a bubbly bowl of fruity and crunchy shaved ice. I was most looking forward to try the dessert dish since Kahn is most renowned for his pastries and sweet dishes. It was refreshing and cleaned my palate from the earlier meat dishes. The currant berries and jelly was a good blend of sour and sweet, which perfectly complemented the subtle honeyed almond praline crunch.  Brilliant idea.

shavedice_birch_redmedicine.jpg
 Close-up.

Close-up.

EXTRAS

Additional dessert: MILK CHOCOLATE CREAM, in the Japanese method, crispy devil’s food, cucumber, buckwheat, lovage.

The waiter pleasantly surprised us by bringing an extra dessert dish to our table since we really disliked the potatoes. This dish was definitely my favorite of the night. The milk chocolate praline was amazing (flavorful but not overly sweet), but the balls of “crispy devil’s food” was freakin’ PHENOMENAL. A must order!

milk_chocolate_cream_redmedicine.jpg

From the bar menu: Banh Mi; country pâté, pork belly, carrot pickle, coriander, kewpie mayonnaise, green chili, cucumber ($12).

This is only available to order from the bar menu. The portion size is huge, containing lots of high quality and flavorful ingredients. The baguette was wonderfully toasted and the slightly sweet kewpie mayonnaise was subtle but perfect touch to the sandwich. Easily one of the most delicious dishes of the night, even though appearance-wise it was simple.

banhmi_redmedicine.jpg

Cocktail #91: cookie spices, sour, almond, foam ($11). 
Delicious. Great drink for the fall because of its seasonal taste. Light alcohol taste.

Cocktail #82: tropical, passion fruit, pineapple, strong, umbrella ($13).
Just how it sounds. Summery and refreshing.

[Los Angeles] China Cafe at the Grand Central Market

Categories: Cheap eats, Chinese
Address: 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Hours: Mon-Sun, 9:00am – 6:00pm
Parking: Free 1-hr parking with validation
Price: < $10 (cash only!)
Date visited: October 2013
Verdict: Not the most authentic but the wontons are hearty, delicious and fulfilling nonetheless. For the price and portion size, you really can’t complain.   

www.grandcentralmarket.com

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One thing I appreciate about living in LA is that you have a plethora of choices when it comes to dining out. I love food (duh, that’s why I write about it), but contrary to what it may seem like, I really don’t spend a fortune every time I go out (I can’t afford to and I wouldn’t want to anyway). What’s amazing about this city is that it’s rife with delicious cheap eats—restaurants that won’t break your bank but will leave you fully satisfied at the end of your meal.

The Grand Central Market has been around for almost 100 years. Known for its “back-in-the-day comfort food and retro prices,” the market is a beautiful hodgepodge of ethnic food. Here, you can find anything from authentic Mexican tacos to Chinese lo-mein, Japanese bento boxes, Middle Eastern kababs and more.

Pretty much every entrée or dish sold at any vendor is under $10.

 The Grand Central Market

The Grand Central Market

However, the GCM is currently undergoing a makeover. A variety of new vendors are opening up to cater to the exploding urban population in downtown LA (or people who are looking for more relatively upscale and urban eateries in the area). These new openings are a little pricier, but don’t worry, they are still mostly wallet-friendly.

grandcentralmarket_dtla_newtenants.jpg

One of the oldest stalls here, the China Café, is a small and unassuming kiosk at the center of the GCM that is most famous for its wonton dishes and chow mein. Its U-shaped counter, which forms around the tiny kitchen, seats around 15 people. You can also eat it at the cafeteria-styled dining area or take it to-go.

Yes, the service is a little chaotic, but for the price, you really can’t complain. The restaurant only accepts cash, but there’s no tax on the food. 

grandcentralmarket_dtla.jpg
 Cafeteria area of GCM

FYI: The wonton bowls don’t come with noodles but you can add it in your bowl for just an additional dollar. The broth is surprisingly clear, and not too salty or MSG-heavy.  

House Wonton Soup ($5.50): chicken, shrimp, char siu (pork), boiled egg, cabbage and minced pork wontons.

 House Wonton Soup

Seafood Wonton Soup ($6.50): scallops, shrimp, boiled egg, cabbage and minced pork wontons.

 Seafood Wonton Woup
 Wonton close-up

[Los Angeles] Hinoki & the Bird

Categories: American (New), Fine Dining
Address: 10 Century Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90067 (Century City)
Hours: Tue-Fri 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, Tue-Sat 5:30 pm - 10 pm
Date visited: September 2013
Price: $115 for two, excluding tip and tax
Reservations:  Yes
Verdict: 8/10. Worldly-inspired Californian fare with an embodiment of local ingredients and a sense of seasonality. The ambiance is comfortable, relaxed yet sophisticated.

Staple dishes: Chili crab toast, Hinoki scented black cod, Black lobster roll, Miso mochi “rice creams,” Miso donuts
My personal favorite: Crispy marinated chicken

www.hinokiandthebird.com| Menu | Yelp 
(310) 552-1200  

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There was a bird, and the bird loved to travel. He flew around seeking no home until he found the hinoki tree in Japan. The aroma felt so welcoming, so pleasant, that the bird decided to settle down and call it home. Long story short, this is the story behind restaurant name’s origin as the bird symbolizes the importance of the cultural collaboration in the creative process of creating new dishes.

A fragrant cypress tree, the hinoki tree holds a special place in Japanese culture. Known to release aromatic oils, the light-colored wood was the preferred wood for the Emperor’s palaces and caskets. It is also still often used in the making of Japanese hot springs (onsen) and the counters of prestigious sushi bars in Japan.

Now, about the restaurant itself. The Milo Garcia-designed dining space is split into two sections: a spacious modern indoor dining room where there are several sleek dark-wood tables, a bar and a view to the open kitchen, and then there's also a rustic-styled backend patio faintly reminiscent of a bourgeois private garden party. It feels urban and sophisticated, but at the same time homey and inviting. 

The owner, renowned chef and restaurateur David Myers who also founded the Michelin-starred Sona, Comme Ça, and Pizzeria Ortica, says Hinoki and the Bird is all about “creating stories based on . . . travels.” His vision is to recreate the memories and influences which he experienced traveling on the Silk Road and reimagine them with the local ingredients of California.

The restaurant is listed on Bon Appétit magazine’s 2013 top 50 best new restaurants in the United States. Click here for the full list. 

Mirroring the restaurant's theme of east meets west, the cocktail program is designed by none other than the legendary mixologist Sam Ross (Milk & Honey, New York) who carefully crafted some classically-grounded Asian-fusion cocktails for the restaurant. The creative drinks fall into one of four categories: “Cups,” “Swizzles,” “Negroni & the like,” and “Quaffers.”  

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Now, here are the things we sampled:

Hinoki swizzle, amontillado sherry, st germaine, fresh green apple, champagne ($14).

 Hinoki swizzle

Crispy marinated chicken, lemon aioli ($11)

This was our first dish and it certainly set the bar high for the rest of the night. I’m usually not a fried chicken type of person, but this was hands down my favorite dish out of everything I tried. You’re probably thinking, what, of all things – fried chicken!? But yes. Simple and unadorned, it’s the tastiest fried chicken I’ve ever had in my life. The outsides were perfectly crispy, and not greasy. The meat inside was tender and juicy. Every bite was a moistly savory ride to heaven.

 Crispy marinated chicken

Chili crab toast, spicy cucumber, coriander ($16)

One of the restaurant’s most notable dishes. Singaporean-inspired and very flavorful, I can see why. However, I thought it was a tad too sweet. The house-made garlic bread was a good pair though.

 Chili crab toast

Lobster roll, green curry, thai basil (MP)

Contrary to popular belief, the bread is not colored with squid ink. It’s charcoal-infused but don’t worry, it’s edible. The presentation is beautiful and I loved the toasted bread. It wasn’t quite what I expected (the curry taste is very faint), but a very interesting dish nonetheless. Another one of the restaurant’s most notable. Not mind-blowingly good but I’d order this again.

 Lobster roll

Caramel braised kurobuta pork belly, radish, mustard greens ($28).

The flavors here reminded me of Shanghainese-styled 紅燒肉 (hóngshāoròu, red braised pork belly). It wasn’t bad but with so many other choices on the menu to try, I would not recommend ordering this.

 Caramel braised kurobuta pork belly

Roasted yam, crème fraîche, lardon ($9)

 Roasted yam

Rice cream: miso mochi, butterscotch, togarashi ($4)

Very unique. Sweet, creamy, but not overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what to expect given the peculiar combination (togarashi, or 唐辛子, is a popular Japanese chili powder seasoning) but I was pleasantly surprised. I recommend!

 Miso mochi rice cream

Overall, it was a good meal. We were there for a solid four hours, and the service was excellent. Our waitress was friendly and helpful, and the manager approached us at the end of the meal asking about our experience. He offered to introduce us to Executive Chef Kuniko Yagi, former Top Chef contestant and chef de cuisine at Sona before it closed in 2010.  Needless to say, we excitedly accepted. Chef Kuniko was personable and chatted with us for over 15 minutes. She patiently answered our endless questions, took pictures with us and graciously waved us farewell.

Mmm, next time back I’ll for sure try the signature black cod and some of the grilled dishes. Although I didn't find any of the dishes particularly extraordinary (other than the crispy marinated chicken, *surprise surprise*), this is a solid choice when you're up for something classy but also fun and non-traditional. The atmosphere is unbeatable.