Archive for March, 2010

A Tale of Two Chilis

March 24, 2010

Thai chili and American chili. They’re two very different things.

Thai chilis are small, delicious red, orange and green bullets of tongue-searing capsicum. American chili is brown, sloppy, sometimes spicy and equally delicious. I recently got the Thai version at Ganda and the American at Chili Addiction:

Saveur called Ganda the most authentic Thai food in America. I haven’t been to Thailand yet, so I’m not the best judge of authenticity. All I know I learned from LA’s vibrant Thai restaurant scene- and I totally realize that Spicy BBQ, Jitlada, Ruen Pair, Pa-Ord and Sri Siam are Americanized restaurants.

Ganda was solid, with clean flavors, but nothing mind blowing. The papaya salad was not overdressed, the ingredients were fresh and crunchy and it had a mild bite. The tom yum soup was light, citrusy and not too oily.

The crsipy catfish, which was the main attraction, was totally underwhelming. I’m not sure if we ordered the wrong one (we went off the menu, not the buffet table), but this catfish was chewy and thin. In terms of flavor boldness, it was about a six. I may just be used to the flavor assault of the other Thai restaurants in the area- restaurants that likely use salt, sugar, oil, Thai chilis and MSG with reckless abandon.

Moving from one chili to another, I was also underwhelmed by Chili Addiction in West Hollywood. This no frills palace of meat and beans serves a range of different chilis in multiple sized bowls or on hot dogs.

I ordered a medium bowl of spicy serrano sirloin chili. The first thing I noticed was how even it was. There wasn’t a layer of grease on top or large chunks or meat poking out. It looked great.

The flavors of the united components were good, but I think the beef itself was under seasoned or tough. There was something that lacked on the meat side. I hoped for more spice as well.

So, promising but underwhelming first tries for both sides of the chili coin. I will go back to both and report back with an update.


Cart for a Cause Tuesdays

March 22, 2010

Long before Kogi, Meals on Wheels was delivering food to hungry Angelenos. To capitalize on the recent explosion in the wheeled meals world, St. Vincent Meals on Wheels started Cart For A Cause. Top chefs like Nobu Matsuhisa, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook (Animal) and Josef Centeno (Lazy Ox Canteen) will be serving $10 lunches on Tuesdays from a shiny new food truck, with proceeds going to their praise-worthy organization.

They’ll be in Beverly Hills for their first Tuesday so go donate to warm your heart and fill your stomach.

I’m in Las Vegas

March 17, 2010

Happy St Patrick’s Day

March 17, 2010

Getting Ready for Earl’s Gourmet Grub

March 15, 2010

Spring and summer are right around the corner. That means beach volleyball, watching the freaks on the Venice boardwalk and summering at my beach house in Malibu… well maybe not the last part. Luckily Earl’s Gourmet Grub is opening soon on my beach-ward route, adding to LA’s modest sandwich landscape.

Earl’s is currently doing due diligence with its Mar Vista locals at the weekly farmer’s market while construction continues on their Venice Blvd space.

I sampled four seriously fantastic sandwiches as well as a special St Patrick’s Day cupcake:

The Publiner (for St Patrick’s Day)
Corned Beef, Pickled Red and White Cabbage, Tomato Chutney and Whiskey Caramelized Onions on Potato Dill Bread (pressed)

Who Dat Crab Po-Boy
Crab w/ Parsley Butter, Cajun Mayo, Shredded Savoy Cabbage & Red Butter Leaf on French Baguette

Artichokes-Hearts of Palm-Parsley Hash, Lambs Ear & Chevre, Artichoke Jalapeno Spread on Pain De Mie (Pressed)

Monsieur Hinault
Dry Cured Ham (Mandrange), Gruyere de Comte, Beurremont Butter, Maille Dijon on French Baguette

Irish Cake Bomb
Chocolate Guiness Cupcake, with Bourbon Ganache Filling and Irish Cream Frosting

Extensive testing has resulted in a cohesive list of sandwiches that work together but don’t overlap. The ingredients are gourmet but they work in unison to achieve the desired effect- good, simple grub.

I didn’t try their most popular pressed sandwiches- the Grilled Gouda (Red Wax Gouda, Sun Dried Tomato Hash, Arugula, Basil on Pain De Mie) or Pig ā€˜nā€™ Fig (Prosciutto di Parma, Fig-Arugula Hash, Verde Capra Blue Cheese on 3 Season Bread). Judging by how often people were ordering them, they must be as good as the rest. Also, all sandwiches come with a side of cornichons, olives & pepperoncini!

As if that wasn’t enough, the space the restaurant will inhabit really is special. This won’t be a boring space like Huckleberry. It’s modern and warm, with unique lighting, angles, colors.

Last but not least, Earl’s is across the street from Mitsuwa. And although Earl’s will have fresh baked sweets, you can get some ramen for dessert… if you’re the type that eats full meals right after full meals, like me.

I’m genuinely excited about the future of Earl’s. See you there this summer.

The Ceviche Food Marathon

March 9, 2010

So they’re remaking The A-Team… I hope that doesn’t suck. The least they can do is keep the line, “I love it when a plan comes together.” The Ceviche Food Marathon was just such a plan. Back at the Pal Cabron opening (in July ’09) Fernando, Javier/Teenage Glutster and I discussed running a ceviche marathon- simply because Fernando had ceviche the night before. Nine months later we managed to find a date that worked and headed all around town for citrus-y seafood, Peruvian and otherwise.

When Cork & Rind and I picked up Javier he told us his neighbors had been up since 5am making mole and tamales from scratch, and that upon our return we needed to try them. I can’t think of a better way to start a marathon then knowing a piping hot cauldron of mole and fresh tamales are waiting at the finish line. It’s like in a movie when the first scene is a glimpse of the big finale, then the rest of the movie details the build-up to that finale, only to show it again in the end in full detail.

We headed out to Mo-Chica to start the ceviche portion of the day. Mo-Chica is in a food court near USC that deserves its own one-stop marathon.

The ceviche is a modern representation, an Asian-Peruvian fusion version that features all the ingredients but in a sophisticated, refined form. The ingredients are top notch, with large sashimi-style pieces of fish. Mo-Chica’s sauce is thick, in direct opposition to traditional ceviche’s thin, juice coating.

Next we hit a dive called La Cevicheria that Eater recently featured in their “Dining on a Dime” section (which is where I stole the exterior/interior pictures from).

We opted for the Gautemalan mixed ceviche and the bloody clam ceviche. The Guatemalan was the polar opposite of Mo-Chica’s ceviche. It had shrimp, octopus and crab finely chopped in a broth of onions, cilantro, mint, avocado and Worcestershire sauce.

The bloody clam cocktail was quite different. Not as much citrus, not very fishy- bold and refreshing, but not overpowering.

Third we settled into a booth at Los Balcones del Peru. This Jonathan Gold-approved Peruvian restaurant is a go-to for pre-Arclight dining.

Their version is the closest to what I think of as ceviche- bite-sized chunks of fish, shrimp, squid, two types of potato, acidic juice that requires sopping up and huge corn kernels. Their aji sauce should be bottled and served in cans in 7-11’s next to the Red Bull and Diet Coke.

Inca Kola, on the other hand, should not. Bubble gum-flavored soda? That’s as bad a combination as Mr T in pink zebra print tank top.

For the fourth stop we chose Natalie Peruvian because it was close by. The restaurant is an example of the most touristy restaurants in Peru, with Machu Picchu murals on the sign, wall, menus and chairs.

The restaurant was empty and dead silent- no music, no A-Team reruns on TV, nothing. Their thick aji was full of all the wrong flavor- the feta dominated the battle over the peppers. The fishy flavor of the ceviche was unappealing and was likely a sign of poor quality ingredients. It was like a bad film remake of an 80’s TV series (yes, I’m talking about you, GI Joe).

Instead of venturing further to Puro Sabor, we turned back for Javier’s neighbor’s mole poblano. This enormous turkey leg lay lathered in a dark, work-intensive mole. Most of the ingredients are fried before stewing for hours. The pasta was even fried, because why wouldn’t you fry pasta.

The black bean tamales were small and light. I used them to sop up every drip of mole.

Unlike the horrible endings to most episodes of The A-Team, the ceviche marathon ended splendidly.

It got us thinking about a raw marathon- sashimi, live uni, live sweet shrimp, raw lamb paste… So stay tuned for that.

The 2nd Gold Standard Food Marathon

March 1, 2010

All you need to know is the 2nd Gold Standard Food Marathon was better than the first one.

It was better because of the gold balloons, courtesy of Fred Eric/Tiara Cafe.

It was better because it was at a car museum and I love cars.

Most importantly it was better because it was bigger, and bigger always is better…

(speaking of bigger, that guy in the left foreground was enormous- he literally was 6’9″ it’s not just the camera angle)

As expected, there was a lot of meat and a lot of tacos:

From top to bottom there was Palate’s pork belly and pig’s ear banh mi with kumquat, pistachio and lardon, Upstairs 2’s braised pork with crispy leeks on a beet risotto cake and Jar’s pot roast and horseradish sliders.

From top to bottom there were Kyochon’s spicy chicken wings, Pollo a la Brasa’s tender but salty rottiserie chicken and Good Girl Dinette’s curry chicken pot pie.

From top to bottom there were beef cheek tacos from Babita’s, three types of mole from La Casita Mexicana and a vegan taco from Kogi.

Everyone did a really good job:

The health department did their job so no one got sick.

Jazz and the Jitlada girls did their job and brought the heat with their dry curry.

And most importantly Jonathan Gold did his job, bringing together the chefs who make LA special and the people who like to eat too much.

P.S. I predict Ricky’s Fish Taco’s will be at next year’s Gold Standard.