Saturday, September 26, 2009

Z Marks The Spot

Perhaps Zankou is an overly obvious selection for Comida con Basura, but I knew I wanted to include this LA landmark at one point or another. So, when I woke up esta manana thinkin' chicken; I instantly understood that "today is the day." Originally founded in Beirut in 1962, Zankou came to Sunset and Normandie in 1983 and has been serving hungry Angelenos savory, casual, and fast Middle-Eastern cuisine ever since. Both immortalized in song by Beck Hansen and forever stamped into notoriety by a sordid double-murder suicide scandal, Zankou remains prosperous and now has around diez locations. Today, I went up to Glendale to score my succulent Tarna plate: sliced, marinated pollo, hummus, salad, pickled turnips, peppers, sesame sauce, pita, and garlic spread. I often recreate this dish at Casa de Solo, but there is something about the real deal that's truly heavenly. In fact, if I am to be sent into the afterworld on an ice drift; I would hope my loved ones will make sure I am equipped with a styrofoam tray (when empty can serve as a flotation device) filled with this stuff. I will leave you with another popular allusion to Zankou which I unabashedly lifted from the interweb: In the episode of Charmed, Charmageddon, Phoebe makes a reference to the restaurant by saying to the demon Zankou, "What's the matter Zankou, chicken?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Warsaw Pact

After K and I decided to bail on a perfectly arranged visit to the always pleasant Huntington Library Tea Room, we took the next logical step and went for Polish food. While LA does have an abundance of Russian gastronoms, our fair ciudad is almost devoid of Polski cuisine except for the appropriately named "Polka" in Glassell Park. I'm not sure this review can match the insightful energy of a recent visit from a certain TV host, but I can say I will make the attempt without cameras, cologne, or sun glasses on the back of my head. The cozy, kitsch filled dining room here creates an inviting setup for the hearty homestyle menu. I ordered Klopsy (mixed meat steaks with gravy) and Kimbap wisely chose Golabki (stuffed cabbage loaded with seasoned pork, pollo, and onion.) During our meal, I couldn't help but reminisce about running wild as a young man through the dismal streets of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Was the food in vinyl-sided "Little Poland" really better than what I'm eating now?--definitely. Would I trade hundreds of angry Krakowites in NYC for one sweet ray of Warsaw sunshine in LA?--maybe, but for now let's just say "Na zdrowie!"

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Try And Focus, Please

Imagine a world without music: pretty lonely, right? Now, imagine a world without music or okonomiyaki: uninhabitable. Fortunately for us all, Salon De Cafe Focus in Little Tokyo has both. Nestled in the bottom of the austere Japanese Plaza parking structure, Focus proves to be a relajante retreat from the usual bustle of the area. Actually, I found I was the only customer on a Sabado afternoon after walking past the karaoke rooms and into the cafe atrium. I ordered okonomi (which means "what you want") yaki (meaning "grilled") and stared at the skyscrapers while listening to the same three ambient Radiohead songs repeat over the house speakers. When the savory pancake arrived, I quickly snapped to attention and dug in as the bonito flakes danced the samba. The Focus version is basic but solid: batter, eggs, grated yam, cabbage, pickled ginger, camarones, onion, bacon, katsuobushi, sauce, and Japanese mayo (muy excelente). While the focus of Focus may be karaoke, just knowing that this culinary hideout exists is truly music to the ears.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Great One

Richmond, VA is home to a specialty sandwich that has long been christened "The Sailor". This seafaring splendor is: butterflied knockwurst on pastrami con melted swiss, sauerkraut, deli mustard, all served on rye. So, after a colleague mentioned an LA burger that seemed strangely akin to this East Coast creation, I decided to investigate the connection. My findings led me to the industrial outskirts of the city to Mike's Sandwich Shop; donde the "Hockey Burger" is, according to the signage, "made from old pucks". Gretzky, who loved to set up behind the net and wait for the wrap-around, would most certainly show tactical patience when ordering from this Armenian influenced diner menu. I, on the other hand, body-checked right into the HB special: tres "finger hot dogs" on a thin cheeseburger with fixin's, papas fritas, and RC cola. The report: Similarities between the two sandwiches are uncanny. The "link" being that the knockwurst and hot dogs taste the same. But wait a minute, knockwurst is a sausage and a hot dog is not. This is where I must make a recommendation (a first on Comida con Basura) for a Hockey Burger powerplay. Either change the description to reflect its "sausageness" or, seeing as the city of Vernon is a mere block away, skate on over to the Farmer John plant and pick up some proper hot dogs. Well, I for one think the latter option would prove more delightful than scoring a short handed goal.