Archive for May, 2009

Jews Love Chinese Food

May 20, 2009

There couldn’t have been a more appropriate time for Rants and Craves to introduce me to The Hungry Ghost Kid. This is because I am a spicy Sichuan-eating, Peking Duck-loving, sushi-smothering, dim sum-downing Jew. Big Ghost’s Study of the Unique Intersection Between Jewish and Asian Cultures through the Medium of Chinese Cuisine is a wonderful and true interpolation that I’ve seen evidence for through years of Jewish Sunday night family dinners at Chinese restaurants in the San Fernando Valley. On most nights there’re more Jews at Bamboo on Ventura Blvd than in temple on Saturday morning.

Further evidence can be found in my trip to Las Vegas over the weekend. One of the original food marathoners and I (both Jews), made our way off the strip to Vegas’ Chinatown. It would more appropriately be called SGV Lite, as it’s basically the same Korean BBQ, Pho, Bahn Mi and Dim Sum found in the heavenly valley east of downtown Los Angeles.

On my drive up to Vegas I noticed numerous ads for Hite. No other Asian beers had billboards so I was thinking Korean might be the better bet than Chinese, but instead followed KJ’s suggestion and went with Yun Nan Garden.

Yun Nan Garden in Las Vegas

We asked for two dishes that were spicy and representative of the flavors of the Yunnan Province. The oustanding choices were Boiled Beef with Szechuan Sauce and Chongqing Spicy Chicken.

Yun Nan Garden Menu

The beef dish immediately set off pleasure sensors in my brain simply due to its red hue- it had the visual tone of deliciousness. Salivation followed by spice sensation followed by satiation. It was phenomenal.

Yun Nan Garden Beef

The chef utilized the golden ration when making the Chongqing dish- dividing it fairly with 70% chili peppers : 30% chicken. It was a brilliant, tongue-numbing hit, an addictive array of flavor and crunch.

Yun Nan Garden Chicken

After we ate the chef pointed out a bunch of other dishes that we should try next time. Luckily there are Yunnan Garden locations in the SGV, so I won’t have to wait to long. Stay tuned for the follow up: Jews Love Chinese Food Marathon…


Potato Chips Preview

May 13, 2009

Finally a new sandwich shop on the westside.


How many pizza, burger and brunch places did they have to open before finally realizing LA needs more sandwich shops.


Bay Cities has boldly carried the lone westwide sandwich flag for years, so welcome Potato Chips.


Welcome to the neighborhood. Please, don’t let me down.


Potato Chips is in the old Bicentennial space which served as Cobras and Matadors’ bar/liquor store. It will continue to serve that purpose in the evening, but during the day will provide sandwiches, chips and beer. The beer is to-go only.



I’d like to see 20 different rare varieties of chips once the place finds it’s pace.


Potato Chips
7613 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 931-4995

Caviar in a Recession

May 8, 2009

Besides travel, nothing makes me wish I was rich more than cars and caviar. My dinner at Guy Savoy was a great example of how caviar can stand out, even in a meal of superb, stand-out dishes.

guy savoy caviar

It’s the decadence and exclusivity of caviar that makes it twice as inappropriate during a recession, yet ten times more satisfying. It inspires an arrogance that says “screw you recession, I’m fine. I don’t need you. My caviar girl is setting me up with the good stuff despite your dismal economic outlook.”

Petrossian Caviar

Unfortunately I’m not fine. Not fine enough to spend hard earned money on things besides bills, car insurance and gas. Thanks to Petrossian, however, I now have a caviar girl. A girl that, once I’m financially fine, will provide me with extensive domestic and imported caviar from the best sturgeon in the sea. My caviar girl is Sidonie, the manager of the newly renovated Petrossian on Robertson.

Petrossian Boutique

The perfectly appointed and well-stocked space will provide respite for wealthy shoppers only mildly affected by the recession, yet majorly affected by TMZ. Before summer’s end I’m sure the headline Paparazzi Pursues Paris at Petrossian will top a page of US Weekly.

Petrossian Exterior

On the boutique side, Petrossian offers a wide range of products from their smoked salmon to foie gras, pate, wine, champagne and more. No expense was spared setting the table at the center of the shop:

Petrossian Table

The abundant selection of caviar is the real draw. There’s the lowly American Hackleback which runs around $100 for under two ounces. For the same size you can also get the Imperial Special Reserve, at the staggering price of $1,250.

Petrossian Caviar Sample

There are some affordable sandwiches, salads and brunch options, but you’re probably gonna want some caviar which will run you $23 on the smoked salmon club sandwich and $28 on an omelet.

Petrossian Interior

I drove straight from Petrossian to buy a Lotto ticket. I know it’s silly but to have the freedom to listlessly stroll down Robertson, catch up with Sidonie, have her point out some unique, “exquisitely rich” caviar, then show up at Mother’s Day brunch with a dazzling treat, is a freedom that I want. I also want to be rich.

get rich quick

Akbar Can’t Beat Jitlada’s Heat

May 7, 2009

I’m addicted to spicy food. I’ve written about it before. It constantly pulls me back to Jitlada and Spicy BBQ. So when I heard that Akbar in Marina del Rey brought rival heat levels it took less than a week to put them to the test.

I keep hearing that Indian food is the spiciest food in the world- even spicier than Thai bhut jolokiafood. The bhut jolokia pepper (the spiciest pepper in the world) comes from India, which is a testament to their spice-producing-abilities. I’m saving my bhut jolokia post for another time, but after trying Dave’s Ghost Pepper Insanity Sauce at the Fancy Food Show then cooking with them a few months ago, bhut jolokia’s certainly are in a league of their own. LA’s Indian food, however, has yet to beat Thai food in my spice book.

So we went to Akbar (which is not associated with the Akbar in Silverlake). On the way we passed Agra (which is not associated with the Agra in Silverlake). Upon our arrival we weren’t served the usual pappadams. The menu actually seems more sophisticated than the usual Indian fare (yes, I’m talking about you Gate of India). At the top of the menu there’s a spice designation (1 being mild to 5 being too spicy for mere mortals).akbar menu

Our waiter gave us a prepared speech about their specials and the spice levels of their dishes. This included a “no send back” policy on their level 3 and higher dishes. He cautioned us that level 5 spice was too serious and we should start with the level 4 lamb vindaloo if we dared. He was very confident that that would suffice, and if it didn’t we could return to try the level 5 green peppercorn curry lamb.kickboxing

We ordered other dishes but they don’t matter because the lamb our server suggested was not nearly as spicy as a medium dish at Jitlada (the papaya salad, for example). In a spice kickboxing match Akbar was throwing weak left jabs against Jitlada’s vicious spinning backfists and would have been knocked out in the first round. In addition to the poor spice showing, the flavor wasn’t even great. The quality of the meat was the only redeeming part of the dish. Worst of all, the naan sucked- it was thin and took an almost stale consistency after a few minutes on the table.akbar lamb okra rice

Overall the meal was like when you’re expecting a great birthday gift and you get a white turtleneck sweater.

So the challenge is going out to all Indian restaurants- who can bring spiciness to rival Thai food? Please step forward now. The ice-water-filled gauntlet has been thrown…

Mashup Meals

May 1, 2009

I originally came up with this idea in March of ’08 and now that Kogi is getting so much hype I figured it was an ideal time to post about Mashup Meals.

For those who aren’t aware a mashup in computer terms is “a web application that combines data or functionality from two or more sources into a single integrated application.” For example, Google Maps. More popularly a music mashup is the instrumental from one song under another song’s a cappella vocals. When seamlessly blended, the resulting song can sometimes be better than the original.

By either definition you can understand that a mashup meal is created by combining featured ingredients from a multitude of cuisines. Americanized sushi bars have been doing it for years with travesties like the Philadelphia Roll (salmon and cream cheese in a rice and seaweed sushi roll). What We’re Eating’s Deep South Sushi Roll features smothered chicken thighs and oven-roasted okra wrapped in blanched collard greens (instead of seaweed paper), served on a bed of spicy onion gravy.
deep south sushi roll

In this day of synergy and cross promotion, interesting licensing opportunities would arise with mashups of specific dishes from notable restaurants. The easiest one is the LA Landmark Mashup: a Pink’s hot dog In-n-Out animal style. Or an In-n-Out Double Double with Pink’s chili. Or a Dodger Stadium Dodger Dog with Pink’s Chili on it…

in-n-out pinks mashup

Another LA favorite would be Brent’s Deli’s matzo ball soup in a Din Tai Fung soup dumpling. Or to really push the envelope Yuca’s carne asada inside a Din Tai Fung soup dumpling.

brent's din tai fung

Kogi already has the Korean taco, so what about flipping it the other way with Bibimbap al Pastor- the famous Korean rice dish with Mexican pork and swap the daikon with cilantro and lime. Maybe even spicy Soon Chorizo?

Another example is Jitlada’s dry curry beef, which is one of their highlight dishes. The idea would be to throw the spicy beef on a roll and cover it with onions and cheeze whiz from South Street in Westwood to make a spicy Phil-Thai Cheesesteak (or a Phurry Cheesesteak).
jitlada south street

Or flip it and take parts of a Bahn Mi My Tho bahn mi (baguette, pickled carrots/daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeƱos) and add Philly steak and cheese to make a Bahn Milly. Another Thai idea is Spicy BBQ’s amazing pork sausages in Angeli Caffe’s addictive bread rolls for IThailian Sliders.

What about a Roscoe’s fried chicken drumstick and covered in Canter’s waffle batter? If it can be done to a hot dog, why not a chicken leg?

India’s naan is one of the most delicious breads in the world- why not fill it with Langers’ pastrami to make a New Deli Sandwich? A Middle Eastern mashup could include meat from a Baby Blues pork rib sliced into a pita from Falafel-Arax in place of shawarma.

I should note here that I’m a very adventurous eater and will try anything once. That said, some of these combinations may not work so well. I’m open to suggestions.

Stay tuned for a mashup meal marathon soon…