Monday, October 1, 2012

Stompin' At The Savoy

There has been much discussion over the years regarding the culinary importance of Hainanese chicken rice: Senor Bourdain has lauded its scrumptious simplicity on more than one occasion, it's the national dish of Singapore, and I have yet to meet a person who doesn't immediately profess their fondness for chicken rice in comida filled conversations. But what makes slices of boiled pollo served with white rice so special? I chose the Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra as the perfecto place to find out.
 Traditionally, this dish is made from slowly boiling whole chickens in a constantly reused pork and chicken bone stock to create a tender texture and rich taste. Occasionally an ice bath is employed after boiling to insure a jelly like skin on the meat. The 'white' pollo at the Savoy is served boneless (and skinless) which is a typical Singaporean 'hawker centre' variation. Next on the plate is the 'oily' rice: cooked in chicken stock, coconut milk, and aromatic leaves this stuff is truly more flavorful than it looks.
The dynamic duo is almost always served with a powerful trifecta of dipping sauces: minced ginger, chili garlic sauce, and soy (or oyster) sauce. This is all fine and dandy but is chicken rice really that mind blowing? Not really. Is it better than other local favorites like: laksa, nasi goreng, fish head curry, satay, or chili crab? I would argue no. Would I happily order a plate sitting on a shaded patio surrounded by die hard fanatics? You betcha.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cuts Like A Knife

What's better than the simple joy of finding a Kalguksu spot that's tasty enough to blow its own doors off? The fact that it's open 24 hours?, perhaps. Is it that they also serve exquisito steamed mandoo?, always a bonus. Or maybe it's the tangy baek (white) kimchi that makes the signage at Myung Dong Kyoja gleam a little brighter in the bustling calles of Koreatown?, bingo.
 This stuff is truly remarkable: cool, crisp, and refreshing. If my mother in law were to make this version (she likes it spicy) I'm sure it would be much better, but until then Myung Dong Kyoja wears the crown. This is it, however, for the banchan. You won't find fifty small dishes competing with your elbow space here, just the basics.
Seeing as how they throw a few steamed mandoo in the kalguksu, K and I ordered up some pan fried dumplings instead. These little bastards pack in a lot of flavor on their own but really take off when dipped in a handmade concoction of the house chile sauces.
 And out comes the kalguksu: knife-cut noodles in a rich, milky colored broth with green onions, seaweed, sliced carrot, dumplings, and ground carne.
I adhere to K's method of eating kalguksu and dip my kimchi in the soup which leads to a crescendo of spiciness that peaks about halfway through creating a cauldron of pure delight. I like to imagine myself coming here for some reinvigorating kalguksu at three in the morning after a long night of crooning at the local noraebang, although the chances of that happening is pretty slim these days....Oh well, at least if I wake up in the middle of the night (which is often with a chica bambino) I can rest easy knowing that I could have a steamy bowl of kalguksu at that very moment. And as we all can agree, knowing is half the battle.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Legends of the Pho

No, this is not a review of a Vietnamese language version of the semi-chick flick starring Brad Pitt and Aiden Quinn, but rather a noodle house that's plugged into an annoyingly busy strip mall on the outskirts of Koreatown. Legend Noodle (& Grill) is somewhat of a gem in the relatively lackluster pho scene in Los Angeles proper (go outside the city limits and its a whole new ball game). On Viernes I had a mighty hankering and needed to keep it close, so I sped on over to Legend for a steamy bowl of pho tai chin (rare carne and brisket).
 Pho is served here with all the usual accoutrements: jalapenos, basil, sprouts, and limon along with Sriracha and Hoisin sauce. The noodles are sturdy, the carne is tender, and the broth is rich and flavorful. All said and done, Legend proves to be a serviceable solution for your pho cravings.
 On the way out, I noticed this colorful sign which boasts (in Ingles and Korean) of the best pho in town. While the validity of this claim is certainly subject for debate, I would say that if the 'town' they are referring to is indeed 'Koreatown' then I wholeheartedly agree. Happy slurping people.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Shack

For me, Tommy's has always been one of those places that hides deep within the psyche only to well up about once a year demanding to be remembered. Not at all unlike the pleasant memory of a kiss on a warm spring afternoon or that slight shock of a vivid dream recalled while awake, this mental conjuring, however, concerns cheeseburgers: gigante double cheeseburgers swimming in Tommy's famous chili to be exact. Founded in 1946 at the corner of Beverly and Rampart, the original shack still slings out greasy goodness 24/7.
I moseyed over to the satellite window (used as overflow during busy hours) and ordered the double cheeseburger combo and grabbed a few yellow cascabella peppers (available at every LA burger stand) for good measure. Not much else to say here, just pure yumminess.
 While chowing at the counter, I noticed that today must be 'athletes' day at Tommy's. One fellow (pictured above on the right) seemed perfectly geared up for a long day of bicycle touring, but wait, isn't he tackling a numero uno combo? I could only assume the bulk of his pedaling was already finished when I overheard a young woman (pictured at the window) telling a friend she's stopping at Tommy's before the big softball game. She proceeded over to her car and went to work like a shaky addict. Is Tommy's some kind of sports super food? Are they going to open a shack in London to fuel the summer Olympians? Amazing, I for one can barely move after feasting at Tommy's, but maybe I should come back when I have some serious exercise to take care of: 'Yeah, I've been meaning to hike up Mt. Baldy for awhile now but not before I get me some Tommy's!'

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Grilling on the Steppes

Like the rest of life, there are many misnomers associated with the culinary world. For example, head cheese is not a queso in the slightest and sweet breads are most certainly not a flaky pastry. Perhaps one of the greatest offenders of comida misrepresentation is the concept of Mongolian BBQ, which is neither from Mongolia (it was created in Taiwan in the 70's) or a BBQ (much closer to a stir fry). This is not to say a false label is a bad thing, in fact who doesn't love ambitiously loading up their bowl trying hard not to make the inevitable mess on the way over to the iron griddle? Today, K and I (along with baby Z) took a stroll up to Gobi on Sunset Blvd. for a taste of good old fashioned yurt cooking.
 The process starts (like all things delicioso) with meat: semi frozen thin slices of all natural pollo, lamb, carne, and pork. 
Next come the fresh veggies: locally sourced produce with standouts like spinach, jalapenos, and butternut squash. Mash it down and move over to the canned veggie (baby corn, water chestnuts, etc.) and sauce bar. Like most Mongol Q spots Gobi has recommended sauce mixtures that steer the creator towards a designated flavor. I tend to disregard this advice and just go at it helter skelter: smoked oyster sauce, lemongrass, garlic oil, spicy sauce, and lemon juice. Last but not least comes the noodle mound. Heap up as much as you can and then it's off to the races.
Just hand it all off to the griddle tender and listen to the sizzle.
 I know this seems like a play by play of Mongol Q as a whole but with results like this I didn't want to leave any detail up to the imagination.
The steamy platters are then taken back to the dining table and served with warm sesame rolls. Gobi also maintains an impressive cerveza selection which can pair off nicely to any BBQ combination. Ah, all so very satisfying and remember if it doesn't taste good you only have yourself to blame. So pack up camp tonight and head out to the wide grasslands to pay a visit to your local Mongolian BBQ (or should I say Taiwanese Griddle Fry).


Monday, February 27, 2012

Enter the Dragon

Welcome back fellow comida enthusiasts and happy year of the dragon. I started out this year with the humbling experience of witnessing the birth (still in the year of the rabbit) of my lovely daughter. Nothing can really quite prepare you for this moment, and while both terrifying and amazing, what's really astonishing is that all preconceived notions melt away and you somehow know just what to do. This is not to say it's easy but it's fascinating to see how we're truly hardwired for this stuff...very humbling indeed. Anyway, enough pondering there's comida to discuss. I decided (especially with a bambino at home) to keep my almuerzo adventure simple and instantly bolted to the perfecto spot for a modest bowl of noodle soup.
The Grand Central Market was once a bustling open air market situated in the bottom of the Homer Laughlin Building and located close to the Angel's Flight Railway. Opened in 1917, it catered primarily to wealthy Angelenos who would take the funicular down from Bunker Hill to indulge in world class shopping. Today, the Market still maintains some tasty tenants including the 'Blade Runner-esque'  China Cafe. I absolutely adore this place. It's the kind of fondness that even though the comida isn't mind blowing, you love it just the same. We all have one or two of these hangouts loaded into our restaurant arsenals. The cafe itself is basically a rectangle lined with stools (if they're occupied choose one and wait) with a kitchen in the center and an enormous ventilation duct that disappears into the vast ceiling presumably snaking it's way outside.
The menu here consists of what I like to call 'World War Two era' Chinese-American dishes with classics such as: chop suey, lo mein, egg foo young, and chow mein. I ordered a steamy bowl of pork wonton soup: bbq puerco, greens, juicy wontons, scallions, and flour noodles floating in a basic but functional broth.
In response to current downtown demographics, the comida at China Cafe is created to satisfy an increasingly Hispanic palate. This means you will be happily served copious amounts of limon wedges, oily chile sauces, and if you so desire, cheap bottles of ice cold cerveza. All in all, the kind of culinary crossover that makes someone like myself smile from ear to ear. Next time, I'll pay the fare (25 cents) down from the hill and imagine how it must have been years ago to head to the Market and seek out that extra special (yet spicy) something.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Truck Stop

As I have mentioned previously on CCB, eating lunch was quite the ritual at my former place of employment. Not only did my colleagues take great care in choosing what type of comida in which to indulge, we were also perpetually mobile so the world (the Bay Area anyway) was literally our oyster. I have many fond memories of those days and often rue the culinary confines of my current appointment. All is not totally lost however, for I still get the freedom from time to time to drive an oversized truck through the endless calles of even more oversized ciudad. I took the advice of a food-minded coworker and coasted over to Van Nuys to dine at his favorito truck stop, the legendary Don Adrian.
The name of the game here is cemitas poblanas; the illustrious Mexican sandwich that hails from the markets and comida stands of 19th century Puebla. When it comes to variety Don Adrian's got it covered: head cheese, millanesas (breaded puerco, beef, or chicken), fried perch fillets, cattle leg cured in vinegar, lamb, jamon, and salmon to name a few. I opened the stakes with a taco arabe (another Puebla creation influenced by Mid-East immigrants) which is a close cousin of the always scrumptious taco al pastor.
This shawarma style plug is filled with piping hot shaved pork and grilled onions wrapped in a flour tortilla served with a thick chipotle sauce. Although I was sad to see it go (could have happily downed two more), my cemita was patiently waiting in the wings.
I ultimately opted for the pollo adobado: marinated grilled chicken, aguacate, panela cheese, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, and quesillo (string cheese) captured in a warm sesame seed egg roll. Doused with a squeeze of lime, this monster is as good as it looks and just outright explodes with flavor. Even the bread was perfecto (not the dry and hard cemita roll at all), slightly crispy on the outside, soft on the inside yet durable enough to keep things standing tall. I actually look forward to future work expeditions to the Valley now that I know where Don Adrian lives. So keep on the lookout Don, we'll be comin' in hot!

For all the art truckers out there, remember: don't break the art, don't wreck the truck, and most of all enjoy your lunch.