Monday, January 24, 2011

Me And Pastrami McGee

 LA is filled with hundreds of greasy spoons that boast colorful signage typically touting the words: burgers, pastrami, burritos. While many of these fondas are best used in an emergency, I did decide to investigate the role of pastrami (outside of a Jewish deli) in the larger SoCal comida universe. Pastrami (from the Romanian pastram meaning 'to keep') is usually made from beef that is brined, dried, seasoned, smoked, and steamed. The result when done properly (as we all know) is tender, packed full of punch, and nothing short of magnifico. I began my meaty research with a slice of the Old Country at Sahag's Basturma where the surly staff crank out Armenian style pastrami (basturma) and soujouk (dried, spicy sausage) pressed in french bread or by the pound. Waiting for my sandwich I felt like I was back in Yerevan (never been) playing checkers with a heavily-cologned colleague and reading crumpled newspapers without photos all day, but when my order came up I hit the streets eager to find a picnic spot.
Before I motored onward I took a quick bite and was astonished. The seasoning tasted strangely similar to Indian pickles but what kind of lunatic would apply Hindu spices to beef? To ponder this obvious contradiction I snaked up to Barnsdall Park to finish what I started.
After diving in, I realized the answer is less theological and more culinary. Similar bouquets are used to zest basturma: cumin, fenugreek, garlic, paprika. Served with some olives, peppers, and thinly sliced pickled radish this cured curiosity hit close to the numbers. In the future I'll know to score my basturma cold cut to eat with huevos (as is popular) or on pita bread with fresh cucumber and tahini sauce.
After digesting for a few days, the next item up for bids was an all expenses paid trip to Pasadena where The Original Tops has been turning cabezas with their succulent pastrami since 1952. Just when you thought The Hat was money, and it certainly is, here comes Tops with a briefcase full of Wilsons. I ordered the Famous Pastrami (Au jus, stacked pastrami, mustard, pickles on a toasted French roll) saddled with shoestring papas, pickled carrots, and chiles all washed down with an icy lemon ole. This juicy sammie was like sinking a Bob Barker hole in one and winning both showcases (the crappy one with furniture plus the cool trip to Rio) on the showdown. With that said, maybe I am serious enough to tackle Langer's delicatessen but until then how good does this look? Come on down!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Hokkaido Shuffle

With the temps remaining on the chilly side, I (Solo Basura) made a much needed desvio towards Mar Vista for some Asahikawa style ramen. True to form, the small Santouka chain serves regional noodles that are not too hot and not too cold but one hundred percent delicioso. I politely asked for a spicy miso set: ramen (simmered pork broth, bamboo shoots, jelly ear, seasame, negi, cha-shu puerco, picante miso paste), small pork rice bowl, and a boiled egg marinated in mild shoyu. You really do get rewarded in life by asking for things nicely. The broth was buttery, the noodles were near perfecto, and the pork was fatty and flavorful. Even the rice bowl was a hit (must be the juicy pork shoulder) and of course a sliced huevo is a welcome addition to any bowl of noodles. Next time (maybe tomorrow), I'll certainly order their signature shio (salt flavor) ramen that comes topped with a cute pickled plum. Sufficiently warmed and rejuvenated, I hit the streets with an extra spring in my step. Santouka is one ramen-ya that's guaranteed to move your feet and get you out of your seat. Slurp.

Monday, January 3, 2011


There are few things in Las Vegas more thrilling than the comprehensive Pinball Hall of Fame. So after dusting off my flipper skills and thoroughly rocking a few tables (especially the new Indiana Jones), K and I went on a comida/bebida mission worthy enough for a level 10 wizard.
We made the quick jaunt over to Chinatown, where Ichiza (gracias, Spence) serves up some truly amazing Izakaya style comestibles. Although we were given menus, it's the handmade signs plastered all over the walls that tell the real comida story. 
Along with some juicy pollo yakitori, some of our ordered highlights included a crispy grilled mackerel
a tasty tataki salad with seared tuna, hamachi, and beef
not to mention an incredible cut roll: deep fried natto (fermented soybeans) topped with tuna.
 After dinner we sauntered over to the 'happiest place on earth' where the 'beer is cold and the machines are caliente', but what really makes Frankie's shine (other than that it's open 24 hours) are the pungent tiki drinks and stylish island decor. The potency of concoctions here are rated by a clever skull scale (1 to 5), K sipped on a fruity Malekula (level 2) while I dove in for the lethal Bender Ender (level 5): rums, POG, floated with 160 proof dark. Whoa, upon flying back to an absolutely magnifico hotel room I couldn't stop thinking about our successful Sin City triple play. Next time you're in town give it a spin and good luck!