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).
This past Sunday, a few of my college friends and I headed out to Weho to try Gracias Madre for Dine LA’s Restaurant Week. Gracias Madre, Spanish for “Thanks, Mother,” is an eclectic Mexican-inspired restaurant. The menu’s outlandish choice of ingredients would probably make any conventional Mexican flinch with confusion, with its generous use of non-indigenous (and perhaps outlandish) ingredients like kale and tempeh, and perhaps more importantly, lack of meat.
Over the MLK weekend, the three of us at Oh My Food Coma! had a reunion of sorts, just in time for Dine LA’s Restaurant Week. For a three course prix fixe lunch set at $25, we feasted at Fig & Olive on Melrose Place. Fig & Olive’s menu is inspired by Southern French, Italian and Spanish cuisines, with a serious emphasis on the extra virgin olive oils used in all of its dishes.
Fujin Ramen is always busy no matter when I go. I frequent this restaurant whenever I’m in the area and also recommend it to friends when they’re in the area as well. It’s located in the same plaza as the HK market, where a small Indonesian food court exists adjacent to it. I’ve never had to wait too long for a table, however, the service there can sometimes be hit or miss.
Men Oh Tokushima was one of the 10 Best Ramen Shops of Los Angeles as listed by LaWeekly. It’s one of those restaurants located in Little Tokyo, but not in the part of Little Tokyo most tourists would walk through. Like many places in Little Tokyo, you have to pay for to park in the same plaza. My company and I parked in a different part of Little Tokyo and made our way to the restaurant.
Ramen Yukinoya in Arcadia is one of three of Ramen Yukinoya stores located all around Los Angeles. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I’ve driven past this place on the way to the 99 Ranch Market in Arcadia. It never really caught my eye, due to its humble appearance from the outside. But I finally gave this place a chance.
After failing to find interesting dishes at the Songkran festival (documented here), my friend and I decided to eat at a sit-down place, Sapp Coffee Shop, a pretty prominent Thai food landmark in the area.
Sapp Coffee Shop is in a strip mall on Hollywood Blvd. It’s nondescript on the outside and similarly plain on the inside. At the recommendation of one of Alvin’s friends, we decided to try this place for ourselves.
Once inside, I was immediately taken back to Thailand (the King’s portrait is found in practically every shop). There are portraits of Thai kings hanging from practically all four walls. I won’t say anything critical about the Thai king (god forbid I fall foul of Thailand’s insanely strict lese majeste laws, which makes criticisms of the King or Crown Prince punishable with up to 25 years in prison), but Thailand’s monarchy has been able to cultivate a god-like aura surrounding the King by capitalizing on the country’s otherwise weak democratic institutions.
Sapp offers a variety of dishes not normally seen at Thai restaurants, including boat noodle soup. Everything is pretty cheap too ($5-7 per dish)! Another plus in my book.
We split the Thai boat noodles, noodles served in a rich and spicy broth of pork blood, innards and topped with fried pork skin, meat balls, and slices of pork. Found throughout Thailand as a street food, it has an interesting taste profile: spicy, sweet, salty and sour, all at once. Both of us weren’t exactly awed by the noodle soup. It was alright, but I didn’t like the noodles. I personally prefer Pa Ord Noodle (on Sunset), which allows you to customize the order (they offer 4 types of noodles). Sorry, Sapp!
(Apparently the dish people rave about is the boat noodle soup with beef, but since I don’t eat beef, I don’t have much of an opinion to offer.)
We also split the seasoned duck noodle soup, another common Thai street dish, made with a soy sauce base. Okay, not gonna lie, I was really disappointed with the portion size. The dish came with a measly four duck slices, and the broth to noodle ratio was pretty extreme.
Considering how salty duck noodle soup is, it’s not like I could have downed the broth alone. And yes, the dish was too salty for my sensitive taste buds. No go.
As for drinks, I was tempted by the cheap prices ($2), so we got a longan juice drink (listed as num lum yai) and Thai iced coffee, as the Thai iced tea had run out for the day.
P.S. Thanks for the pics, Alvin (even though I took most of them.)
Sapp Coffee Shop
5183 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Southeast Asian New Year (more specifically the traditional new year of Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos) is in mid-April, based on the lunar calendar. Its origins are rooted in Hindu traditions, but nowadays, the holiday is deeply woven in with Theravada Buddhist rituals. (Also, nowadays, a lot of hardcore partying occurs during this festival. Alcohol, drugs and all that jazz, especially in cities.)
Earlier this year, I went with Alvin to the Songkran festivities in LA’s Thai Town, taking the 302 Metro line to the event. There were a lot of food stands, a lot of craft stands, and a lot of ‘traditional’ activities as well.
This Burmese commercial, for another festival, depicts the practice of veneration, minus the commercial content.
One of the major merit-making activities to perform during the New Year is to venerate the Buddha and to venerate one’s elder family members. The Burmese venerate their parents and grandparents by kneeling on the floor and bowing thrice, much in the same way they do to the Buddha. I suppose it reinforces a rigid social hierarchy much in the same way vassal states “venerated” the central power in pre-colonial times.
I bathed a Buddha statue at one of the stands, for myself and for my parents~ There were also several Thai temples who set up stands, with monks chanting nonstop.
There were some traditional crafts on display there as well. A woman at one of the stands was stringing together flower garlands called malai. The only reason I even remember this word is because the Burmese equivalent is almost identical, as both words have etymological origins in Pali, an Indian language. I picked up pretty desk calendars from the Thai Tourism booth as well. Singha Beer also passed out cute headgear.
An overwhelming number of the food stands were selling the same exact items: satay, papaya salad and pad thai (and more unusually, orange chicken). The preexisting Thai restaurants nearby offered a superior and perhaps more “authentic” selection. The items were a overpriced too. DISLIKE.
We got chicken and pork satay kabobs, as well as a Thai sausage on a stick. I personally thought the meat was too dry. And no complementary peanut sauce. 😦
Another favorite: payaya salad. From the way they were making it, it looked to be made in the Isaan (Northern Thai) style. I didn’t like how monstrous the cabbage slices were. But it was sufficiently spicy and tasty. We also shared a grilled banana sticky rice dessert. It looks sort of like Chinese zongzi (粽子) or a miniature version of Vietnamese banh chung (side note: Nicole, I will never forget those blissful moments I engorged myself on the banh chung you brought back to the dorms), but the sticky rice is much finer (almost pureed), and the inner filling is sweet.
Disappointed in the food stands and the long lines, we decided to eat a complete meal at Sapp’s Coffee Shop, a pretty well-known landmark also on Hollywood Blvd.
P.S. Thanks for the photos, AC.
Thai Town Songkran Festival
Thai Town, Los Angeles, CA
After hearing about this place from so many people, I finally had the opportunity to come here last Thursday night with my future sister-in-law and a friend.
A lot of people I know rave about their coffee, but I am, in no way, a coffee drinker. That is more in Justin’s department. So I’m sorry to say, I can’t say much about the coffee. What I can say is that aside from the coffee recommendations, my friends have also told me about the pretty designs Urth Cafe makes on its hot drinks. Good looking food that also tastes good? That is an okay-go for me!
Downtown LA is about 20-25 minutes from where I live. We exited off of Vignes street and went through these winding roads. At first, I honestly thought we were lost. In my head I kept thinking, “There’s no way this cafe could be in a shady place like this.” But, lo’ and behold, it was! I don’t even know how to describe the neighborhood it’s in. It’s located across a pretty nice looking apartment complex, but other than that… I wouldn’t recommend walking around the neighborhood at night. Also, parking was a little tricky, so keep that in mind.
At Urth Cafe, you order your food first, grab a number and find a seat for yourself. The servers will then bring your orders to you.
Urth Cafe offers a number of sandwiches, salads, and pastries. The cheesecake looked so good, I just had to have it! I chose the last blueberry cheesecake that they had. It was really great! We split it amongst the 3 of us and weren’t able to finish it at all. This cheesecake was about $6.75, which is a bit pricey, but don’t expect anything less from Urth. It’ll be on a pricier side, but definitely the quality is worth the money.
I ordered the small Spicy Chai Tea Latte, and in no way was it “small.” It was about $3-4, and definitely a lot for what you get. I can’t imagine being able to finish a medium or even a large. Anyway, the Spicy Chai Latte was amazing! It has such a wonderful spicy fragrance to it and great depth in its taste. My friends commented on how strong the spicy aroma was, which definitely reflects the quality of spices they use in the Chai. It had a nice kick to it, which I loved.
My sister-in-law ordered the Japanese Green Tea Latte, as pictured above. You definitely need to mix in the cream before drinking this, or else you get a chunk of green tea at the top. It has a nice, strong green tea flavor, but it wasn’t my favorite drink. There was a bit too much grittiness in the drink, and when I think of green tea, I like it in its pure form, without any sugars or creams added.
And then we have the green milk tea boba. The boba was nice and chewy, and the green tea flavor wasn’t as strong as the latte. I think the flavors were blended a lot better in this drink than the former.
Overall, I liked the vibe of the cafe. It was bustling even at 10:30pm. I definitely want to come here, again. I just wished that the area wasn’t so shady, but maybe it’s because it was at night, and everything feels a little scary at night in downtown LA.
Oh! If you have any recommendations for drinks or food I should try the next time I’m here, comment below. 🙂
451 S Hewitt St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
1634 Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028
Josie bought a groupon for this burger joint so we decided to hold another administrative meeting here! The deal included any four burgers (up to $12 value each), two family-size orders of fries (a $10 value each), and two sides of edamame (a $5 value each), all for $28 dollars! We ordered the Fuku Burger with a turkey patty, Buta Burger, Karai Burger, and Chicken Katsu Burger. For the sides we got their regular fries and Jazz fries. There was A LOT of food for the three of us. The beef burgers were really juicy, but they tasted the same to Josie and me. The Chicken Katsu burger was really tasty, the chicken was tender and had a crunchy crust. The turkey burger was also really good, I couldn’t even tell it was turkey, just that it wasn’t as juicy as the beef burgers, but that’s expect. The fries were really good, they were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and the sauce they gave us to dip it in was amazing…Justin poured it onto everything he ate lol.
The decor was Japanese inspired pop culture-ish, and the music was really loud. Our server was very nice and friendly, but she disappeared for a while for break and didn’t tell us, so we had to wait a bit. But it’s a very friendly and nice atmosphere.
For the price Josie paid for the groupon, it was definitely worth it since we were able to try so many things. But I don’t think I’ll be going back here if I have to pay regular price, just because all the burgers tasted the same, so it was nothing too special for me when I could get the same thing or even better burgers for less.
Thanks to Justin for taking all the pics! ^^
At Last Cafe
204 Orange Ave., Long Beach, CA 90802
This is a small cafe in Long Beach, almost hard to find if you aren’t looking closely, but definitely a gem. I went here before dropping a friend off at Long Beach airport, which is about 10 minutes away, and I really enjoyed the food here. Between 3 people, we ordered the mixed green salad, mac and cheese, and brick chicken, and it came out to be around $25. The mixed green salad was very light and refreshing, it’s one of my favorite salads, but the menu stated it would have candied walnuts, while my salad did not come with any 😦 Still yummy though. The mac and cheese is…I can’t even explain how good it is, the picture does not do it justice. It is hands down the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. It’s not heavy at all, even though it’s full of cheese flavor. The macaroni was cooked perfectly so you don’t get tired of eating it, and it was topped off with baked bread crumbs which added so much to the texture. The bowl was huge for the price also. The brick chicken is a 1/4 piece of chicken that’s cooked under a brick (I’ve been trying to imagine it too), and it has this light red sauce, almost like a acidic marinara sauce or something, their smashed potatoes, and some steamed veggies. Everything was fresh and good, and the chicken was super moist…so good. If you’re ever in the area I recommend this place, it also has a great laid back atmosphere with friendly waiters and waitresses.
My friend and I walked a few blocks after Dine LA at The Hungry Cat (review here) to pay this dessert shop a visit, a gem I found on Yelp. Called “Baan Kanom Thai,” literally “House of Thai Sweets” (I know this much from my one quarter of Thai 1), it’s embedded in a typical Socal plaza, wedged in between a string of Thai businesses.
Their name to fame are these so-called “crispy pancakes” (khanom bueang, ขนมเบื้อง), a typical street snack found readily throughout Thailand (and also Burma, where they’re called khauk mont). They’re bite-sized and thin wafer-like confections, filled with coconut cream, shredded coconut and some strips of egg yolk. After being cooked, they’re folded into twos, like hard shell tacos. They’re sort of pricey (~$5 for 12 pieces), but boy are they delicious. They had an appetizing jasmine aroma to them too.
We also tried their grilled banana cake, made of sticky rice, filled in with some mushed bananas, and grilled in some banana leaves. It was pleasantly textured and the individual rice grains couldn’t even be discerned.
The shop sells a variety of other desserts, ice cream, cookies and more. I also bought a box of Durian toffees on another trip there. They make pretty good snacks.
Address: 5271 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90027 | Yelp
Nom nom nom.
I ate at The Hungry Cat, a seafood resto, for LA’s annual DineLA Restaurant Week with a fellow foodie, Shelly! It was my first ever DineLA experience and I was pleased, but not impressed by the food. We ordered the prix fixe meal for $22 a person.
However, the resto is pretty difficult to find for first timers. We missed it while walking up Vine Street, because it’s located deep within a plaza, hidden behind another restaurant.
We were seated next to a pretty interesting man, whose whole family is basically involved in the culinary industry. He even asked me for my food blog URL, but I forgot to give it to him… Sigh. Coulda gotten discovered.
The resto’s decor is charming, really. I have a penchant for cats (in case you didn’t know already…meet Coca!) and there were framed cat pictures all over the walls. Even the signs to the men’s and women’s restrooms were cat-themed.) There’s also a lot of natural light coming in from huge windows, which made the place feel bigger.
Appetizer: Salmon Beignets, Horseradish Creme Frâiche and Arugula. The arugula was pretty bitter, but I must admit that these was my favorite part of the meal. The beignets were fried to perfection
Entree: Grilled albacore tuna, farro verde, roasted vegetables and a meyer lemon agrodolce. The grilled tuna was not cooked enough. Mind you, I’ve never had parsnip before, so it tasted like banana to me for some reason.
I love it when I don’t need to stage a shot like this.
Desserts: Pumpkin Beignets with Candied Bacon and Heiss Rose Ice Wine.
I wasn’t carded when I ordered the ice wine, for some reason. I guess I look 21+… The only other time I’ve had ice wine was at a vineyard in Canada, but this one had a strong alcoholic afterburn. That’s all I can say about it. I’m not very educated about wines.
The pumpkin beignets were underwhelming at best. They were pretty bland to me and didn’t taste much like pumpkin. The candied bacon bits were scrumptious and crunchy though.
Address: 1535 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028 | Yelp
For my birthday on Friday, my roommates basically woke me up after my post-midterm recovery nap and took me out to Midori in Sherman Oaks, which I’ve been dying to try for quite a while now. It’s sort of a far drive from Westwood, but totally worth it. Thanks for the awesome surprise, guys! I’m not much of a birthday person, but I’m glad to have celebrated it with y’all.
The restaurant is located in a 2 story plaza, and pretty inconscipuous by any means. I liked the hanging lanterns and the use of empty sake bottles as ceiling decorations though. Made the place a bit trendy looking. It’s pretty packed during lunch time, too.
All of us got the all you can eat sushi. For $21 a person, you can order unlimited amounts of sushi, rolls and appetizers. However, the catch is that everything must be eaten within an hour, and the plates must be empty before ordering a second round. This didn’t pose much of a problem for us, especially me, since I was raised for AYCE meals. My parents have conditioned me, both physically and mentally, from an early age to tackle buffets head on.
Throughout our meal, we basically ordered sashimi and rolls, interspersed with one another. The preparation was a bit slow, but the quality was pretty decent for an AYCE place. The slices of raw fish were generous and pretty fresh, as far as I could tell. I’m not a fan of sashimi, but I sure love them rolls.
As for the appetizers, we ordered teriyaki chicken and gyoza. The teriyaki chicken was a bit dry and nothing special. The gyozas were similarly dry and a bit on the salty side, but still pretty tasty. But I must emphasize that you don’t go to Midori for the appetizers.
The baked salmon rolls were especially memorable, although I liked the tempura rolls too. I wish I had a menu with me to identify my favorite rolls, but off the top of my head, they were the dragon roll, sunset roll and clipper roll. I think presentation could’ve been better, since the sushi chefs seem to have gotten sloppier as time went on. But, it’s the content that matters, not the fluff, since everything ends up in the same place anyway. 🙂
Our party ordered about 5 rounds of sushi, but I think I could’ve handled another round or two, had we been given a bit more time to digest. I was a bit disturbed by the fact that Midori’s inari is $3 for a single piece, which is exorbitantly expensive if ordered separately. It’s a bit too sweet for my tastes though. I could buy a pack of 20 at 99 Ranch Market for around that price.
And if you ask about the birthday special, they treat you to a bowl of green tea ice cream with a candle on top. Sweet deal, if you ask me (especially considering that they don’t check ID). Their ice cream is amazing—faintly sweet, really creamy and almost like gelato. I’m a fan!
Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA
I went here on May 19th because my friends were craving ramen but I ordered the Mabo rice instead because it was too hot to eat ramen. The ramen is beyond amazing by the way, but that’s for another post. This Mabo rice was so good! As you can see, there was a lot for the price (around $8 I believe), and I could only finish half of it. The sauce was so good, not too salty and very flavorful. The tofu was soft which I like and the ground meat was spicy enough that it was good but I didn’t die. Even when I heated it up and ate the leftovers almost 5 hours later, it was still so good!