Archive for September, 2011

The Six Taste Food Marathon

September 15, 2011

Six Taste Food Tours has got it down. They are an organized food marathon company who, in a very short time, have established themselves as the preeminent food tour group in LA. Their restaurant walks are guided by pros who specialize in the neighborhoods that they traverse daily. They do a dumpling marathon that includes J.J. Bakery, Din Tai Fung, Sinbala and more. Their Santa Monica marathon covers Rockenwagner Bakery, Tudor House, Bar Pintxo and other stops. They also do Hollywood, Downtown, Thai Town, Little Tokyo and New Chinatown (the SGV).

I gave them the task of creating a food marathon of off the beaten path places that they don’t typically feature on their tours. This lead to Las Tunas Drive in San Gabriel, where I met Jeff and Mike. Jeff owns Six Taste and embodies the food marathon spirit.

The first stop was Taiwanese breakfast at Si Hai RestaurantThis place is a locals favorite without a letter of English on the front window.

A common breakfast item in China is hot soy milk. While most people drink it out of a cup, in Taiwan it’s served in a bowl. The sweet version starts off plain and you add sugar until it satiates your diabetes tooth. The savory version sounds scary, with vinegar that curdles the milk, pork and mustard greens.

Pork belly buns are very popular right now, with Flying Pig making them their featured item. As a kid Mike called these pacman, as the dough looks like an open mouth chomping on pork belly, They’re much bigger than anything I’ve seen on a food truck. Mustard greens are a staple of Taiwanese cuisine and would reappear throughout the marathon. They add tang, crunch and a rare dose of vegetables to the starchy, meaty dishes.

There are a number of breakfast burrito-style scallion omelets. They are wrapped around fried dough, which seems like a hangover cure to me. Nothing wrong with that.

In the same strip mall, Cathy’s Bakery is packed with sweet and savory buns, rolls, tarts, cakes and cookies.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it that early in the marathon, but the potato salad roll looked like the perfect football tailgate heartstopper.

Next up was Shanghai cuisine from Southern Mini Town. Yes, the name is a fantastic example of humorous direct translation from Chinese to English. They probably meant Southern Village, but I would have gone for Sparsely Populated Rural Municipality. Maybe it wouldn’t fit on the sign…

As we sat surveying the menu Mike explained that the waitresses were speaking a different dialect than the table next to us, and they were speaking a different dialect than the table next to them. The cultural melting pot of LA extends to all parts of the city.

May favorite dish of the whole marathon was the seaweed fried fish. It’s like Chinese fish and chips without the chips. The batter has seaweed in it giving it a green hue and salty crunch.

The dumplings were sweeter than Mama’s Lu, Dean Sin World and Din Tai Fung. I still like Dean Sin World’s best.

The Shanghai rice cakes fall short of Mama’s Lu’s, BUT Southern Mini Town has a different style that we didn’t order. It’s not a good idea to order two of anything on a food marathon especially not sticky, dense rice cakes.

The boiled chicken was bland and no amount of sauce could save it.

Moving on to the spiciest stop of the marathon, we got Szechwan cuisine at New Chong Qing.

Their house specialty broiled chili fish comes bathed in a cauldron of spice.

I liked it but always get lazy about picking through fish bones. Maybe I’m spoiled. Any struggle with bones was curtailed by enthusiasm with how many peppers could be applied to each bite.

The dan dan noodles were excellent. It lead to a discussion about Dai Ho and the noodle nazi. Rumor is that the owner was such a tyrant behind the counter that one of his customers beat him up. Since then he’s a bit nicer, but not exactly welcoming. I can’t wait to try it.

Just for good measure we ordered some pork belly which was good.

I didn’t tell Jeff and Mike but on the way home I stopped at Tasty Noodle House.

I love their pork bao and couldn’t leave the neighborhood without them.

The other suggestions for next time were the egg rolls from Golden Deli and Lu Gi, the hot pot place next to Si Hai. So as one marathon ends another one is created.

Six Taste is achieving innovative food exploration via food tours. They’re going to expand to other events as well. One such event is a Chinese Market Tour with Chef Sara Johannes from WP24. It’s a great way to learn about Asian cooking, ingredients and more importantly brands that are reputable. 99 Ranch can be intimidating but Sara breaks it down very eloquently.

I’m thrilled that Jeff and Six Taste are working so hard to further the food marathoning mentality.


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