8-spots-8-hrs-how-to-eat-like-a-boss-in-LA

How to eat your way thru LA in 8 hours

A few months ago, our good friend Janet flew back to Socal from Chicago. We picked her up at LAX around noon and immediately proceeded to do what we know best: eat (barring karaoke, of course).

The 27 mile food trek
Full map available here.

Chicago’s paucity of good Asian eats is pretty well-known, so we had decided on an ambitious list of spots beforehand. With nearly a dozen places at hand, we managed to hit up almost all of them. The 27 mile food trek took us through 4 different neighborhoods: K-Town, Fairfax, Thai Town, and the San Gabriel Valley.

A word of caution: this suggested itinerary isn’t for the uninitiated, including people with small appetites.

Pitstop № 1: Myung In Dumplings

Entrance to Myung In Dumplings
Entrance to Myung In Dumplings

First stop was Myung In Dumplings in the heart of K-Town on Olympic Blvd, between Western and Irolo.

Interior of Myung In Dumplings
Interior of Myung In Dumplings

Myung In Dumplings has a pretty austere menu consisting of Koreanized Chinese dishes, including, as the name implies, dumplings.

Customary side dishes
Customary side dishes: kimchi, pickled radish and cucumber, diced cabbage salad
Spicy Steamed Dumpling with Shrimp and Pork 딤섬
Spicy Steamed Dumpling with Shrimp and Pork

We ordered 2 sets of dumplings: spicy steamed dumplings with shrimp and pork, which are stuffed with minced pork and shrimp, and rolled into logs before they’re steamed. However, both Janet and I agreed that Pao Jao Dumpling House, inside the Koreatown Plaza mall, has a superior version with spice that actually packs a punch.

Korean-style siu mai
Korean-style siu mai

The second was a set of Korean-style siu mai, which were folded using a technique reminiscent of Shanghai-style siu mai, but in Korean fashion, stuffed with meat, not sticky rice. Delicious. It went well especially with the chili-infused soy sauce-vinegar mix.

Pitstop № 2: Ham Ji Park BBQ

Entrance to Ham Ji Park
Entrance to Ham Ji Park

Next up on the itinerary was Ham Ji Park, one of my favorite bbq pork rib spots. Unfortunately, service that day was a bit lacking (more so than usual). Trying to grab the waiters’ attention was an exercise in patience. And at one point during the meal, a waiter nearly spilled a bunch of used plates onto Janet.

Customary side dishes
A set of 6 customary side dishes
Barbeque pork ribs
Barbeque pork ribs

We shared an order of barbeque pork ribs, already glazed and marinated to perfection. And no effort needed to grill the meat by oneself. The three of us managed to finish the the ribs with ease, quickly separating the meat from the rib bones like clockwork.

Kimchi stew
Kimchi stew

Also got an order of kimchi stew, which was served piping hot. But I won’t say more about the unappetizing find I managed to stumble across in the soup.😦

Pitstop № 3: Milk

Entrance to Milk
Entrance to Milk

After this protein overload, we made our way up north to Fairfax, home to one of LA’s finest dessert institutions: Milk, known for its ice cream macaron sandwiches.

Queue after queue
The line into Milk…
A blueberry crumble ice cream macaron sandwich
A blueberry crumble ice cream macaron sandwich

We shared 2 sandwiches, each of us allowed one bite in between rotations. I guess we’re just efficient that way.

The blueberry crumble sandwich was the better of the two, with a more tempered sweetness, even with half the sandwich dipped in a sugar-coated frosting.

A Thai tea ice cream macaron sandwich
A Thai tea ice cream macaron sandwich

The Thai tea ice cream sandwich was all sugar and no tea. And for some reason, it began melting at a faster rate than its counterpart. Definitely could have been improved.

Of course she would.
Of course she would.

Milk is practically across the street from Buzzfeed’s LA offices, so we naturally took the liberty of peering into the empty offices through the windows for a quick look (hope nobody was inside!). I have got to say, they have a really nice open office layout. #workgoals

Pitstop № 4: Sapp Coffee Shop

Inside Sapp Coffee Shop
Inside Sapp Coffee Shop

Mindful of our 6 pm dinner plans in Monterey Park with the rest of the Project WILD pack (including Josie), we quickly drove east to our next stop in Thai Town, Sapp Coffee Shop. I’m a fan of their rice plates, but we somehow opted for 2 noodle dishes instead.

2 Thai iced coffees and 1 Thai iced tea
2 Thai iced coffees and 1 Thai iced tea
Boat noodles with pork
Boat noodle soup with pork

Janet had been deprived of boat noodle soup for quite some time, so we ordered Sapp’s version, which came with fried pork rinds, fish balls and pork offal, all bathed inside a blood-laden broth, seasoned liberally with spices. Unfortunately, the bowl we had was quite watery and lacked the signature intensity of the version at Pa Ord Noodle (down the street).

Jade noodles with BBO pork, duck and crab meat
Jade noodles with BBQ pork, duck and crab meat

The jade noodles, one of Sapp’s signature dishes, were yummy though. Colored green with spinach juice, the noodle was a complex medley of contrasting flavors and textures. Apparently you can order it in soup form too!

Pitstop № 5: Kanom Thai Ram

On our way out, I bought a bunch of potato curry puffs (similar to Indonesian pastel) and fried bananas from a Thai snack shop next door. I just cannot resist banana in fried form. No idea why.

Pitstop № 6: Mateo’s Ice Cream & Fruit Bars

Paleta de Nuez
Storefront with a walnut flavored paleta

Every savory meal must be followed by a sweet refreshment. So naturally we adhered to this cardinal rule, and thus found ourselves at Pitstop #6, one of my absolute favorite popsicle establishments: Mateo’s.

Too many flavors, not enough stomachs
Too many flavors, not enough stomachs
My paleta de nuez (walnut flavored paleta)
My paleta de nuez (walnut flavored paleta)

Paletas are essentially Mexican popsicles, except a million times better than what you can find at your American ice pop shop. Mateo’s has a humongous library of flavors, coming in 2 variants: milk-based and water-based.

I already knew going in what flavor I wanted: walnut. So creamy, smooth and subtly nutty. Best of all, it’s only $2 a pop (cheaper than La Michoacana, which has quite a few branches in the San Gabriel Valley)!

Paleta de tamarindo
Janet’s paleta de tamarindo (tamarind flavored paleta)

Janet got a sour water-based tamarind pop.

Alvin's paleta de nanche (yellow cherry flavored paleta)
Alvin’s paleta de nance (yellow cherry flavored paleta)

And Alvin got a “yellow cherry” paleta, which is actually made from nance, a tropical fruit native to the Americas.

Pitstop № 7: Huolala

We then headed further east to grab dinner with the rest of the group for a reunion of sorts at Huolala, a Sichuan-style restaurant on Garfield Ave in Monterey Park. The entire place, befitting the literal translation of its name (huolala or 火辣辣 means “scorching hot”) was painted in a shade of fiery red, as were all the tablecloths.

The waitress, perhaps unsure of our spice tolerance, even questioned whether we were in the right place, asking in Chinese “You know this is a Sichuan restaurant, right?”

Sichuan appetizers: marinated pig's ears, seaweed, and deep-fried fish.
Sichuan appetizers: marinated pig’s ears, seaweed, and deep-fried fish.

We started off with a cold plate appetizer, consisting of marinated pig’s ears (凉拌猪耳朵), marinated seaweed (涼拌海帶) and smoked fish (熏鱼).

Dry braised yellow fish 乾燒黃魚
Dry braised yellow fish 乾燒黃魚

House special squid 老乾媽魷魚, cooked with Laoganma brand chili sauce
House special squid 老乾媽魷魚, cooked with Laoganma brand chili sauce

And we proceeded to order an obscene amount of family style dishes, all of us unabashedly digging into this bounty of spicy food, including some classic Sichuan dishes like twice-cooked pork (回鍋肉, huoguo rou).

Beer duck 啤酒鴨
Beer duck 啤酒鴨

The most interesting of the bunch was a dish called “beer duck” (啤酒鴨, pijiu ya), a casserole of duck and taro braised in an intensely spicy concoction of duck, chili oil, and soy sauce, spiced with a number of traditional Chinese ingredients like star anise, Sichuan peppers, garlic cloves, ginger, and cloves. It was especially delicious with a heapful of white rice.

Twice cooked pork 回鍋肉
Twice cooked pork 回鍋肉

Pitstop № 8: Tea Brick

How to resist?!
How to resist?!

As if we weren’t already full, we proceeded to top off the night with some dessert and milk tea at Tea Brick, a few blocks away, located in the same plaza as my go to branch of Mama Lu’s.

Milk tea overload
Milk tea overload
Brick toast with a dollop of nutella...
Brick toast with a dollop of nutella…

Not sure how we managed to power through brick toasts (basically toasted bread, scoops of ice cream and other decadent toppings) alongside individual cups of flavored milk tea. But we did.

Some hits, some misses. But never a dull moment with these nitwits.

Peace,

Justin

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