Category Archives: LA’s Westside

Ramen Hayatemaru – Los Angeles, CA

Ramen Hayatemaru prides itself with serving the best Hokkaido style ramen, with its specialty ingredients straight from Hokkaido, Japan. They serve ramen noodles made from goma (ごま) seeds and Okuhara sauces from their factory in Hokkaido. It seems like a lot of effort for such a small, hole-in-the wall over on the Westside, but their efforts are not in vain. I still dream about their flavorful ramen and can’t wait to go back.

Continue reading Ramen Hayatemaru – Los Angeles, CA

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Coffee Tomo – Sawtelle

Adorable shelves lined with mug and decorations.

Coffee Tomo has become one of the premier coffee shops in Sawtelle. In between Tsujita LA and Blockheads, it seems to be always buzzing with students. The lighting is impeccable and the interior’s pretty spacious.

Industrial-size coffee roasting machine

The decor’s seriously meant for coffee aficionados  A Diedrich coffee roasting machine on site, coffee bags hung on the wall like flags. The place has got it all.

Sweet potato latte

Unfortunately, Alvin and I weren’t in the mood for a caffeine buzz the day we went. So we opted for lattes, namely their sweet potato and red bean lattes. They’re pretty pricey IMHO, but thought we’d try anyway.

The purees at the bottom of the sweet potato and red bean lattes

The drinks were alright. They came out piping hot, but were more steamed milk than anything else, with pureed sweet potato/red bean settled at the bottom. I guess I have to return once again to try their big boy coffee drinks.

Coffee Tomo
11309 Mississippi Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90025
www.coffeetomo.com

Peace,
Justin

Siam Chan – West LA

Last Friday, Josie and I drove over to UCLA to attend our friends’ graduations. It was sort of bittersweet, as it marked the end of our close friends’ undergraduate journey at UCLA. Time flies by so quickly. It was just last year that I sat in those same exact seats, waiting to turn my tassel.

Lovely Thai style painting of kinnari (celestial bird-like maidens)

To celebrate Michelle’s graduation, we decided to eat at Siam Chan, after deliberating on a handful of different Thai restaurants in the West LA area. I was a bit skeptical, as the average yelp rating for the place was 3.5 stars, respectable but not spectacular.

Emerald Buddha altar perched on a wall

The seating space was tiny, a bunch of tables crammed into a room probably the size of a small living room. We waited for a few minutes outside as the waiters reconfigured the tables to seat our party of 5.

Siam Chan’s laminated menu on a batik patterned tablecloth usually used to make sarongs.

All of us, famished and a bit dazed, quickly made our orders and awaited the food’s arrival. The menu offerings are typical for any Thai restaurant. There’s also a dinner special (for $10) that comes with Thai iced tea, shrimp fried rice, egg and salad), for a limited selection of entrees.

The $1.50 Thai iced tea

The Thai iced tea that Josie and I ordered arrived first. It was more milk than tea, and I could barely taste the brewed black tea (as the above photo illustrates–well-made Thai tea is dense with a strong brew of black tea, almost pitchblack at the bottom).

Spicy fried rice… without mint

Josie ordered the spicy fried rice. Unfortunately, the restaurant had run out of mint, so the dish felt like it was missing something. The fried rice came in generous portions, but was not spicy, as the misleading name implied.

A classic: pad see ew

One of our friends, Janet, ordered a classic, the pad see ew, pan-fried rice noodles with beef.

Vegetarian red curry

The vegetarian in our group (and c/o 2012 grad), Michelle, was split on getting a vegetable curry or a red curry. She opted for a red curry, which comes separately with the rice. I honestly dislike restaurants that charge separately for bowls of rice, especially for dishes that, by default, are eaten with rice. Who the hell eats curry without rice? -_-

Another classic: rad na

The eldest (also graduating this year with a Master’s!), Rosalie, ordered another classic Thai dish, rad na (also known as lad na), stir-fried rice noodles drenched in a starchy gravy. ‘Twas alright. Just your average rad na.

Jun pu: pan-fried noodles with crab meat

I tried to be a bit adventurous and ordered the jun pu, described on the menu as “Thai rice noodles pan-fried with real crab meat, egg, onion and chili.” First, the portion sizes were measly, fit for a kid’s menu. Second, where was all the “real” crab meat? Third, where did all the chili go? The noodles were not spicy at all. The dish was lackluster. It tasted like pad thai, except more sour-sweet and soggy from all the oil. I wouldn’t have guessed it was pan-fried.

All in all, Siam Chan was just okay. It delivered what I expected from the 3.5 star rating on Yelp, but I can’t complain about the price. There are plenty of other Thai places in West LA that provide tastier Thai.

Peace,

Justin

P.S. Shout out to UCLA’s class of 2012! Congratulations Michelle, Rosalie, Laurie, Alvin and everyone else~!

1611 Colby Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025
www.siamchanrestaurant.com

FEAST at Rieber – UCLA

Sauteed potato banchan flatbread

FEAST at Rieber is UCLA’s newest dining hall. When it had a soft opening last year, it was noted for featuring Asian style dishes, after a renovation that costed $5.1 million.

I’ve been dying to try FEAST, but access is hard to come by unless you actively know a dorm resident with a premium meal plan. (As of June 2012, FEAST does not accept BruinCard EasyPay, which would allow non-dorm students to try it out.) Anyway, I finally got my chance to experience FEAST firsthand. The dining hall recently began opening for dinner, explaining the long lines outside Rieber Hall on the day I visited.

Classy decor

I was impressed by the decor of the dining hall. One would have never guessed that this dining hall was one of the shabbier dining halls (and home of My Pizza, a late night pizza pickup joint), a godsend during Dead Week. Also, the cutlery and chinaware were pretty snazzy, if I say so myself.

Bamboo tree for an ‘Asian’ touch?

The dinner menu was composed mostly of Korean and Thai dishes, including banchan (Korean side dishes) and vegetarian offerings. To be sure, I engorged myself (multiple servings of every dish), having been deprived of a UCLA dorm meal since I graduated last year. (I still miss Covel Commons’ bbq chicken pizza. Nicole and Josie would know.)

Shrimp and pineapple flatbread

The flatbread kitchen offered two flatbreads on that day: sauteed potato banchan flatbread and shrimp and pineapple flatbread. I liked them both, but I was not particularly fond of the burnt edges.

Thai bbq chicken

One of the entrees offered was the Thai barbeque chicken, served with jasmine rice. The chicken was perfectly spiced and seasoned, tender and moist. I was thoroughly surprised.

Banh mi

The sandwich section offered subpar banh mi sandwiches. (Also, is it just me or do a lot of banh mi shops skimp out on cilantro nowadays?).

Eggplant stir fry

Also tried a couple of vegetarian dishes: eggplant stir fry, Thai basil tofu sandwich and Korean garlic fries. I forgot to take pictures of the latter two. >.,< But they were good. The Korean garlic fries resembled thinly sliced French fries, except lightly seasoned with garlic and salt.

Pandon chiffon cupcakes

The dessert section’s highlight was its pandan chiffon cupcakes. I love all things pandan, so it really wasn’t a hard sell. There were also black sesame steam buns, but they ran out quickly…

Peach mousse

I also nabbed an appetizing cup of peach mousse, which turned out to be way too sweet for my taste buds. In spite of all this, I still managed to wolf it down completely…

Green tea ice cream

I ended my meal with a compulsory bowl of cereal and milk (when I lived at the dorms, I ended every dinner meal with a bowl of cereal and milk). Sadly, Corn Pops weren’t in stock that day, so I settled for Cheerios. After, I brought out an cone of green tea ice cream.

Clever ad. Is this a bad time to mention that I pilfered some organic tea bags?

All in all, I was pretty impressed with the dishes I ate. FEAST definitely trumps its predecessor, the Rieber Dining Hall. Too bad it’s not open to the public. Until then, it’s gonna take some first and second year dorm student to swipe you in.

FEAST at Rieber
310 De Neve Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90024
www.feastatrieber.org

Peace,

Justin

Poke-Poke – Venice Beach

Hello all!

As promised, more reviews for my last days here in the States until my long-awaited Asia trip. I’m super excited just thinking about all of the different foods I’ll be able to eat and try, but guhhh, I am not looking forward to the damage in terms of weight gain, that’s for sure. =( NO ME GUSTA!

Moving on…

I took my cousin to Venice Beach on Tuesday (June 12th), because he wanted to walk around and explore a bit.  He heard about this sashimi joint called Poke-Poke from yelp, and really wanted to try it. We decided to head there first in the afternoon and grab an early lunch.

So the food here is Hawaiian-style sashimi. It comes in two sizes, small or large. You choose your ahi tuna poke flavors, the type of rice you want (white or brown) and then you can personalize your poke with additional toppings. Only the avocado was extra in terms of the toppings you could choose.

I decided to go simple by choosing a small spicy tuna poke with brown rice and kale. My cousin went with the original, brown rice, and all the extra toppings with the exception of the pickled ginger.

It was so good! I am a huge fan of sashimi and the ahi tuna was so fresh. I loved it! Although, I have to say it is a bit pricey for this small portion ($7), but it’s expected since it’s sashimi. The spicy sauce for my tuna had a nice kick. It didn’t overpower the taste of the tuna, which is an extra plus. I especially loved the contrasting texture of the firm ahi tuna with the crunchiness of the kale. They also cooked the brown rice really well. I am a fan of brown rice, but I find that it’s hard for me to eat it when it’s not cooked a certain way.

Overall, it was a nice pick on my cousin’s end. We ended up bike riding for a couple of hours after this. It was really cloudy at the beach, but I still ended up sunburned, again! =( I’m like a tomato now.

Anyway, I definitely want to eat this if I’m ever in Venice again.

Enjoy

❤ josie

1827 Ocean-Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291

‘lette macarons – Pasadena/Beverly Hills

Hello loves,

Just a quick post today. I was in Old Town Pasadena, because my class got out early and also because my dad asked me to pick up a charger from the Apple Store today. I decided that it’s been a long time since I first had ‘Lette and I wanted to try it again.

I wrote about my first experience with ‘lette (here). This time around, I bought the salted caramel and the raspberry. The salted caramel was just as good as I last remembered it to be. The raspberry filling is to die for. It’s not too sweet or too tart. It’s a nice balance to the sweetness of the cookie itself. I really love the texture of macarons, and I’m sad that I didn’t try them before.

Unfortunately these things are still $1.70 a piece, so they are my occasional guilty pleasure when I have some change lying around.

If you have not yet tried a macaron, I suggest trying it!

Let us know what you think.

Cheers,

❤ Josie

14 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105

—————-

Here are some pics from the one in Beverly Hills to tempt your tastebuds…

9466 Charleville Boulevard at Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

http://www.lettemacarons.com/macarons.html

~Nicole

Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken – Culver City, CA

Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken
9537 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
http://www.honeyskettle.com/

Hungry for some yumminess, my friends and I came here for some fried chicken.  We ordered the Family Pac that came out to be $25.56 and comes with 8 pieces of chicken (2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 breast, 2 drumsticks), 4 biscuits, 2 orders of kettle fries, and 1 container of macaroni salad.  It was also supposed to come with pickles but I don’t know what happened, maybe they didn’t have any, no big deal.  They have secret sauce (which is sweet, kind of reminds me of tamarind), spicy sauce, and honey that you can serve for yourself while you wait for the food.  When it came…OH man I was so happy, it was so much food for 4 people, we were definitely more than full (and I was with 3 boys).  The chicken isn’t like Southern fried chicken, The skin wasn’t flaky, it was more of large pieces of flour coating that gave it a deep crunch (I hope this makes sense), and the skin had a sweet taste to it.  The fries were to die for, it was thick cut, which I usually don’t prefer, but since they were cooked in a kettle, they were super crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The biscuits were just heavenly as well, they were so light and buttery.  The macaroni salad is similar to the Hawaiian macaroni salads, sweet with pieces of celery for crunch, yum.  Nothing was greasy, which was awesome.  For me, I enjoyed the fries with the secret sauce and the chicken with the honey.  The spicy sauce wasn’t anything special to me (it wasn’t even spicy) so I didn’t eat a lot of it.  I thought it was kind of expensive, but honestly it’s completely worth it, and it’s way more affordable than Korean fried chicken.  We were stuffed on $7 each!  Must try.

                            

~Nicole

Tsujita LA – Sawtelle

So, for Pepero Day 2011, Alvin and I had lunch at Tsujita LA in Sawtelle, a Japanese enclave less than 2 miles away from Westwood. For the longest time, I had been anticipating this place’s opening. Tsujita LA is the first American branch of a small ramen chain based in Tokyo.

There was already a mid-sized crowd waiting for tables when we arrived for lunch. We quickly filled out our name on the waitlist and went to Giant Robot across the street to kill some time.

The dish to order here is their tsukemen, a slow-simmered broth of pork bones, cartilage and lard, and dipping noodles. According to some sources (ahem..Google), the broth is specially simmered for 60 hours at a separate site before being served.

The restaurant is really classy, making good use of its cramped corner location inside a pretty new plaza (it’s across the street from Volcano Tea House, one of the few legit boba places around UCLA. Although I didn’t take a picture, on the ceiling is a dazzling piece of artwork, thousands of wooden spoons arranged as to form clouds.

A variety of condiments to adjust the tastes to your liking

The tables are honestly a bit cramped. The buffet of condiments on each table basically took up a third of the table, leaving little room for eating.

Char siu ramen

I didn’t really care for their char-siu tonkotsu ramen, priced at $12.95, well beyond my budget for ramen. First off, 3 tiny slivers of pork is not enough to win my approval. I don’t think the ramen base could win any accolades in its present form. However, it was truly creamy and rich, with pork bones, cartilage and fat completely melted in. Unbelievable. Saltiness wasn’t a problem either, as it is with a lot of the ramen I eat.

Salmon rice bowl

The salmon sashimi rice bowl was decent, in both price and taste. Less than $5, it was generously packed with fresh cuts of salmon that melted in my mouth. I don’t care much for Japanese rice (with fat, sticky grains), but this won’t present a problem to those Japanese foodies.

Tsukemen noodles

Tsukemen broth

Finally, the piece de resistance: Tsujita’s tsukemen. Of late, tsukemen has been gaining traction in the States, although it’s mostly confined to the West Coast. I especially love the abundance of ramen joints in LA.

As the instructions on the website point out, the tsukemen is eaten in 3 stages (to bring out different flavors):

  1. Begin by dipping the noodles into the accompanied soup broth until you have enjoyed around 1/3 of the noodles.
  2. Then mix into the noodles the black shichimi (black seven flavor chili pepper) and enjoy another 1/3 of the noodles with the soup.
  3. Finally squeeze lime juice into the noodles and mix well, enjoying the last of the noodles and soup.

In all honesty, we didn’t properly take care in reading the instructions beforehand, so I squeezed the lime onto the noodles at the beginning. It’s just impulse, I suppose. I found it a bit tedious to dip the noodles into the soup broth before eating them (Stage 1), so this was truly a test of patience for me. Especially given that the noodles weren’t so great. Alvin and I both agreed that the worst part of this dish were the noodles: a bit undercooked.

Stage 3, the pouring of the remaining broth into the noodles. My favorite part: immersing myself in the broth and noodles.

Half cooked egg

The tsukemen broths were unbelievably frothy and creamy. I was left speechless. I might as well have been drinking straight from a cow’s udder. I could really sip this stuff for the rest of my life and not regret a thing.

I’ve never tried the dinner menu (which is too exorbitantly priced for me, anyhow), but the tsukemen gets a big thumbs up. As with most Japanese joints, a typical meal will cost upwards of $20/person.

P.S. I love LA’s vibrant ramen scene.

2057 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
http://tsujita-la.com | map

Bombay Bite – Westwood

There are only a handful of Indian restos near UCLA. Most are scattered on Westwood Blvd, south of Wilshire. I finally had the chance to try Bombay Bite, which is pretty close to the campus, earlier this year. Alvin and I intended to get Bruin Bowls for $5 (unfortunately, we were told that they’re only for takeout.)

Everything was unremarkable and expensive and portions were very small. I was not impressed.

My family has a penchant for good Indian food (especially lamb curries), so I was sorely disappointed by the dishes I had.

Address: 1051 Gayley Ave, Westwood, CA 90024 | Yelp

Peace, Justin

P.S. Indian food aficionados, there is a GOOD Indian buffet near the Westwood Pavilion mall called Jaipur that will not disappoint.

Thai Moon Restaurant – Westwood

Thai Moon Restaurant

Last Tuesday I went to UCLA to pick up my diploma with Justin. W00t! It’s official 🙂

While we were there we visited Nicole and went out to lunch at a Thai restaurant near Westwood, on Westwood boulevard. It is in a small plaza near the Penguins Ice Cream Shop.

We were the only ones in there when we first arrived, which was fine. I like catching up with friends without being stuck in an overcrowded restaurant. We ordered 4 dishes: Pork Ribs, Thai Boat Noodles, Chicken Yellow Curry(not pictured), and Mango Sticky Rice.

The pork ribs were the first to come out. It comes on a plate with four sizeable ribs. If I were to eat this by myself without ordering anything else, I don’t think it would be enough for me. The flavor reminds me of American style ribs. Honestly it wasn’t anything special.

My favorite dish was the one that Justin ordered. It was the Thai Boat Noodles. The noodles are fried and crispy, and it lays on a bed of this yellow, sweet sauce. It comes with chicken and red onions. When you mix it all together, you get this great flavor. I love the crunch of the noodles, and also the texture of when it soaks in the yellow sauce. I don’t know if it’s a curry sauce.. it didn’t have a super strong curry taste to it. I wish I could describe it better, but I think Justin could.

We also had yellow curry, which was not in any way memorable. Disappointing to say the least.

The mango sticky rice was wonderful. I love the flavor of the rice, and the mangoes were all ripe and sweet. My only problem with this dish was the proportions. I like a lot of sticky rice as opposed to mangoes in my dish. So I was disappointed by the amount we got.

Overall, not too bad when you sit in. I’ve read reviews about their take out being slow. It is a small restaurant, probably not good for large crowds. Also, it does take time for the food to come out.

Try it out.

Josie

2180 Westwood Blvd Unit 1G
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Neighborhood: West Los Angeles

Yogurtland – Sawtelle

Tokidoki at Yogurtland: How we met the Co-Owner of TokiDoki

After having the Sanrio styled Yogurtland cups and spoons today with my yogurt, it made me think back to the time they had the Tokidok Collaboration, back in 2009.

I remember that experience really well, because it was a special night.

Nicole and I went to Yogurtland with our friend Jason. We went to the one over in Sawtelle, like around 10-11 at night. We took a seat outside, and before eating my yogurt I took a picture of it on my phone. There was a guy sitting at the table next to us and he suddenly said, “did you just take a picture of your yogurt?” Nicole and I both smiled and said, “yeah, it’s really cute.”

We didn’t think too much about it, but the guy continued to talk to us. He told us his name was Ivan and he was the one who was responsible for the Tokidoki themed Yogurtland cups. Now, imagine how we must’ve felt at that moment. The three of us exchanged glances like, “is this guy for real?”

Jason asked him what he had meant. Ivan said that he was the co-owner of Tokidoki. We were so amazed, we had to ask him over and over, “wait, are you serious?” We talked to him for a while and realized this guy was seriously legit.

Sometime during our conversation, I told him that it was a really great idea and that I really loved tokidoki’s art. I also mentioned how I wanted to collect all of the spoons. After hearing that, he got up, went back inside Yogurtland and got us a handful of the different collectible spoons. I was so thrilled!

He told us about the new Tokidoki store that was opening up in the area, and told us that we should go to the grand opening. It was really exciting! Unfortunately, none of us could make it to the grand opening.

Anyway, I will never forget that night. During my time at UCLA, I didn’t come across a lot of celebrity sightings or anything like that. But definitely, I will never forget the night we met the co-owner of tokidoki.

Tenryouan – Westwood

Tenryoan is a pretty small Japanese restaurant on Westwood Blvd, south of Wilshire. It’s about ~20 minutes away from UCLA by walking. The exterior of Tenryoan is very confusing and misleading. When I first passed by the resto, I thought it was a deli that sold ready-made sushi. The interior is pretty bare-bones, but cozy. There’s a cute vintage Japanese arcade game by the door and a huge paper umbrella in the middle of the restaurant.

Appetizers were a few edamame beans, an orange slice and some mango pudding. Nothing mind-blowing, but the presentation was nice.

Sukiyaki ($12): The Japanese hot pot came with pretty generous portions, but the soup base was a tad too sweet for me. I tend to like subtle flavors when it comes to food. Included are a huge slice of beef, some tofu mushrooms of the shiitake and white needle sort, and Napa cabbage.

Chicken karaage ($9): Only two words needed to describe it: Salty batter (hypertension-inducing…). This was a huge disappointment, since all the Yelpers were raving about the karaage. If it weren’t for the rice, I would not have been able to eat it. It came with a small serving of salad and a dipping sauce.

Service:
The server was relatively attentive throughout the meal, except when he surprised us by taking away the appetizers even though he told him not to.

Another complaint: Tenryoan’s menu is a headache to read, as if it were put together by someone with very bad Microsoft Word editing skills. I REALLY hate poorly-designed menus. Handwritten prices were scattered all over the place and frankly confusing to read. Unimpressive for a place that boasts franchises in Honolulu and Tokyo.

Verdict:
Meh. Nothing mind-blowing in my opinion. Better Japanese food can be had in Sawtelle and Little Tokyo.

Address: 1248 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024 | Yelp

Peace, Justin

Flamebroiler – Westwood

Flamebroiler’s Half and Half

Half white meat chicken and half beef on brown rice.

The bff Calvin over at Gluttonousrice was staying with me these past two days. Before going back to Pennsylvania, he offered to treat me out to dinner in Westwood. I had always seen this little restaurant/fast food stand which coincidentally shares the same space with a donut shop. The food is really really good and decently priced. THANKS CAL! ❤ ❤ They claim that their food has no fat, no skin, no msg and the food I got was just that. Really good fast food. Sounds strange right? I know…but it was just that!

Definitely thinking of coming back here again.

Love it

Josie

Boba Review № 10: Culver City’s Westsubs

Westsubs is a pretty misleading name for a place that specializes in boba and tea.. I think 9/10 customers in there were ordering boba, not sandwiches. Anyway, I went with Josie and some of the P. WILD directors, after eating at a Brazilian food joint next door.

They offer a huge variety (an endless list of options, from mint mocha to Thai tea) of boba milk teas ($3.75), making it especially hard for indecisive people like me to decide on one.

The ambiance is pretty well-suited for studying. The windows are lined with orchids and there’s ample lighting. Apparently they offer free wifi as well. If only I had a car…

Their cups are huge. They’re not standard-size boba cups, probably a good two inches taller.

I ordered a taro milk tea. The taro milk tea was yummy, one of the best I’ve ever had. 😀 The tapioca balls were likewise perfectly done: chewy and slightly sweet. Combined with the generous portions, I was more than happy to pay $3.75.

Address: 3863 Overland Ave, Culver City, CA 90232 | Yelp

Peace,
Justin

Diddy Riese – Westwood

$1.50 for an ice cream sandwich: a scoop of ice cream wedged in between two freshly-baked sugar cookies.

Address: 926 Broxton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 | Yelp

Peace,

Justin

P.S. I’m really behind on posting resto and boba reviews. I’ll try to get some of them up throughout winter break. Sigh…