Craft [Century City]

Restaurant Week Los Angeles began with me and my friends at Craft. I had been wanting to try Craft, for awhile now, but venturing to Westside is few and far between for me. And finally, Miss B was able to get us all together and set it up. Though, I kinda wish we had a later reservation. One other note, Tom Colicchio, of Top Chef fame, is founder of Craft restaurants. Top Chef, on Bravo, is a show I have been wanting to watch.

They complemented our meal with banana bread to take home to eat, as a late night snack. Nice touch.

We were all giddy with excitement while waiting for our food to come, or was that our stomachs growling and body’s trembling for low blood sugar. Perhaps both. I know we ripped through the bread and butter as soon as it was set on the table. I barely got a photo before my friends ate it all up.

This was tonight’s set menu.

Choice of Appetizers
House Made Charcuterie
Baby Lettuce
Pecorino & Hazelnuts

Choice of Entrees
Hawaiian Blue Prawns
Torpedo Onion & Anson Mills Grits
Niman Ranch Pork Shoulder
Molasses & La Ratte Potato Salad
House Made Ricotta Angolotti
& Braised Mushrooms
California Natural Ribeye
Gigante Beans

Choice of Desserts
Meyer Lemon Semifreddo
Market Citrus & Shortbread
Chocolate Crepes
Salty Peanuts & Malt Custard

Unfortunately, we only choose the Pork Shoulder and the California Natural Ribeye. We didn’t realize, till later, that it was family style and that we should have at least added a pick of the Hawaiian Blue Prawns, as well. Oh well. . . our loss. Personally, I don’t care much for shellfish.

Once we selected our entrees, it wasn’t but 5 mins or so, that our appetizers came rolling out. The salad which featured hazelnuts was good, meaning not bad at all. I liked the hazelnuts addition. Made me dig for them, like a a toy in a cereal box, in my 2nd helping. Then there was the ocean trout – which looked like salmon, but isn’t as luscious and more tougher. As Miss B. said, “It has a fishy smell & taste”. And the liver pate wasn’t favored by our dinner party, as well. The foie gras dip with wine and spice gelatin was really good. I am not normally a foie gras type-of-guy, but this was amazing. After we ran out of the accompanied bread, we used the flat bread from the liver pate, and then the table bread to finish off and clean the bowl of the dip. Not sure what it was, but it was the combination of the mixture with the sharpness of the pink jelly.

Next came our entree’s – the pork shoulder and the ribeye. The pork shoulder was what I suggested and ordered, not all too surprising after all with my fascination with eating pig. The first bite, with much of the fat, was eye closingly yummy. But after that, the next bites, sans the fat, were dry, yet tender. In LA, fat can be construed as a negative thing, with its glamorous culture. But I don’t care. After living overseas, I realized that fat give much flavor and juiciness. The ribeye, with it glistening glorious fat, was cut in easy portions for everyone to share. Not something I would order myself, I was pleasantly surprised by it. I must concur with Miss M, that red meat is good.

I think, if I remember, we also ate other things. . . like green things (like vegetables) . . .but that wasn’t important. Yes, we are carnivores. But yes, I did eat vegetables – scroll up to read about the salad.

We were nearing the home stretch with our plates cleared off, then I remembered that we had dessert coming, with the chocolate crepes and the Meyer Lemon Semifreddo. The chocolate thing – and I don’t think it was crepes. . . was too sweet. It needed the requisite after dinner coffee. But the Meyer Lemon Semifreddo, which looked like a big pineapple slice, is one of my desserts that I will remember. It had a wonderous slightly sweeten lemon taste. Meyer Lemon desserts are my lists of new favorite lemon sweet things!

Craft is good.

A view from our table. We spotted Warren Beatty, just a table away. I guess he’s here for restaurant week, as well.

We wanted to eat the table cloth settings, since we were so hungry.

The set menu from Restaurant Week. My friends told me that Craft in NYC is excellent, but the one in Vegas is not so good. Another friend said her experience, at this location, wasn’t as good as the hype.

Here’s our baby lettuce salad. There are hazelnuts hidden in the salad. Does baby lettuce taste better than adult lettuce?

The pate with the flat bread.

Ocean trout. We ate it, but wasn’t our favorite.

This was the foie gras dip. It was probably the most memorable dish.

The California Natural Ribeye. Very good.

The pork shoulder. Very tender. Look for the fatty parts.

Make sure you ask for horseradish. Fresh, too!

The chocolate dessert. Too sweet. It needs coffee to go with it.

The Meyer Lemon Semifreddo. Very good. I would recommend this to anyone.

Outside Craft. They offer valet parking as well as self-parking.

Rating
2 pigs, $$$

Craft Los Angeles
10100 Constellation Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90067
310.279.4180
http://www.craftrestaurant.com

Craft on Urbanspoon
Craft in Los Angeles

ESPN Zone [DTLA] – closed

The first time I went to an ESPN Zone was in Baltimore, when the first one opened over 12 years ago. I can’t believe it took that long for ESPN to open its first one in Los Angeles. I know there’s on in Anaheim at Downtown Disney – but that doesn’t count.

In the heart of Los Angeles at LA Live.

First off, I should say that you don’t plan to come to ESPN Zone for the food. You come to watch the great sports games. You come to LA Live and ESPN Zone for drink before the game at the Staple Center. Or you could be here waiting for the movie to start a the nearby Regency Theaters or the show to start at the Nokia theater. But I doubt you will come to ESPN for just the food.

But I was pleasantly surprised. I know it is typical bar food what we ordered – the sliders, the nachos, and the baby back ribs. But it wasn’t all that bad.

The nachos – this huge monstrosity of a appetizer, was scary. This could have feed a family. They piled the cheese, the sour cream, and the jalapeno peppers so high we ALL had to take pictures of it. It took two manly hands and arms to lift this thing. I do not suggest this for little children, they should be allowed to look at it. On top of that, once I started eating it, I couldn’t stop. They have a some sort of derivative of crack in there, I suspect. I couldn’t believe we almost finished it. I should have took a picture of that.

Then we had the sliders and the baby back ribs. The sliders were good – nothing special. I enjoyed them. Thank goodness we did enjoy them rather than not. But you know, Jack-in-the-Box has these sirloin sliders, which are even better. Sorry for mentioning a fast food place . . .

Anyways, the baby back ribs were our next target. They were not bad. Good size portion to feed an NFL lineman, but not your standard Joe. These portions were bordering on Claimjumper epicness. As should be expected of all baby back ribs, the meat tore off the bone tenderly. The BBQ sauce was tangy and fine. It was a good suggestion from our waitress.

All in all, the food wasn’t all that bad. Though we were a little perturbed with the idea of the requisite minimum charge of $10 per person per hour on a big game day. We felt a little pressured. But it is understandable.

The Baby Back Ribs – enough to feed an NFL Lineman. The fries were pretty good.

The sliders. eh . . .

The nachos were probably the best I have had in a long time.

ESPN Zone
1011 S Figueroa St
Ste B101
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(213) 765-7070
espnzone.com/losangeles
twitter.com/ESPNZoneLALIVE

ESPN Zone on Urbanspoon

Blu La Cafe [DTLA] – closed

I found this place on a recommendation from a friend. We were looking for a non-Asian place to go. Then my buddy starts talking about a cafe, how cool it is, with artwork, and great burgers. All I heard blah blah blah and GREAT BURGERS!

Right next to Cole’s and the Association. After dinner, you can get drinks, right next door.

Nothing gets between me and menu with burgers. Ok, maybe mac’n cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches, too. But still, burgers at almost any restaurant will get ordered by me. Something so simple, yet so common, restaurants will do their interpretation of the classic. Though it is hard to make into a disaster, it isn’t easy to make it mind-blowingly memorable. In this case, I think Blu La Cafe will get high marks, but not quite the highest. The bread – on their signature Blu La Cafe Burger, the soft buns, held together nicely. The juices, the meat, and the veggies with mayo were all held together well. I assume that the burger patty was hand packed from scratch, since it fell apart while I was eating it. And that’s a good thing. Though the only negative comment I had was that it was a bit too salty or seasoned a bit too much. Other than that, it was a solid burger.

My compatriots had the Monterey Burger, heavily influenced by our waitress. I might have ordered that if I wasn’t swayed by the text of “award-winning” for the Blu La Cafe Burger. The bite I tried from the Monterey Burger had the kick from the jalapenos and monterey jack cheese. I think the slightly over savoriness of the burger melds well with the spiciness.

There was also a couple of orders of the turkey lasagna. Unfortunately, one of them came out a bit runny and not cooked all the way. Yet my other friend finished his, in record time. The small bite that I tried wasn’t all that bad. But it isn’t something I would fret over or suggest ordering.

There were two things that stood out on consensus. The fries and the fried mushroom ravioli. The shoestring fries, that came with my burger, were stolen, fry by fry, from my plate before I was able to finish my burger. I think I only had a couple of fries. They were thin, crispy, and not-all-too greasy, which they ought to be. Then the fried mushroom ravioli, fried ravioli stuffed w/ portobello mushroom, ricotta cheese & romano cheese, served w/ house chili oil, were the hit of the night. The chili oil was so good, they we used it as a substitute for ketchup for the fries. The two orders we had, were split among us all and were quickly devoured. I think one of girls’ mouths was orgasming with delight – Miss B. Because of the ravioli, my friends made a blood pack to return again.

Anyways . . .Blu La is a nice joint in the heart of Downtown LA, next to Cole’s and the Association. Parking will be a challenge, but I think well worth it.

Some of the decor from inside.

This is the Shiraz we had that night. I’m not a big wine drinker, but it was fine. Blu La Cafe only serves wine and beer. Also, the wine prices were very reasonable for the quality.

Fried Mushroom Ravioli! Excellent. Yet, I think the house chili oil sauce was the sleepy hit.

The Turkey Lasagna. I wouldn’t suggest ordering that.

The Tamarid Salmon. This was a bit on the dry side.

This was my Blu La Cafe Burger – award-winning burger features house-made 1/2 lb. angus beef patty, topped w/ bacon, blue cheese, garlic mayo, lettuce & tomato on a toasted brioche bun. Fantastic burger, but little too savory, though.

The Monterey Burger – house-made 1/2 lb. angus beef patty, topped w/ monterey jack cheese, jalapenos, avocado, tomato, lettuce, & mayo on a brioche bun.

Blu La Cafe
126 E 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 488-2088
www.blu.la

Blu LA Café on Urbanspoon
Blu LA Cafe in Los Angeles

Wurstküche [DLTA]

I was recently back at Wurstküche again. Not much has changed since I first went there. But it did get more crowded and popular. This time, I will just post up some pictures.

Check out my first post about it, here.
http://blog.thethirstypig.com/2009/06/wurstkuche-restaurant.html

The classic Bratwurst – fine cuts of pork, coriander & nutmeg.

I think this was the Kielbasa – polish style, pork & beef, onions and spices.


The Louisiana Hot Link – beef & pork, onions and hot spices.


My Austin Blues with Sauerkraut.


My Austin Blues – hot and spicy, tri-pepper & hardwood smoked pork. This was before I put anything on.



All waiting to be cooked. I know this, this past time we were there, the lines were long on a weekday lunchtime – around 1pm.

Wurstküche
800 E 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 687-4444
wurstkucherestaurant.com
twitter.com/wurstkuche

Wurstküche on Urbanspoon
Wurstkuche in Los Angeles

The Gorbals [DTLA] – closed

The Gorbals is new restaurant that opened in Downtown LA, late last year, in 2009. They are in an interesting space on the first floor of a converted loft apartment building.

Check out the video from Dine LA

Its a very cool space. The area around is a bit rundown, but I like it.


I was looking for a new place to try in Downtown, but I had certain criteria that I need to follow. I didn’t want a uber trendy place. Nor, did I want a super expensive restaurant. I was in the mood for anything non-Asian. And The Gorbals fit the bill after reading newsletters, blogs, and other sites.

The first thing I took note was the Octopus with Gizzards. A bit of a strange combination. I like the Octopus, but the gizzards was not what I was looking forward to. But as it turns out, the gizzard was tastier than the octopus. I don’t usually touch the strange parts of an animal, like gizzard, intestine, heart, etc. But in this case, it was pretty good. The gizzard has a unique consistency, a bit grainy. I thought it would be more chewy. I would recommend ordering this.

Another item that I was looking forward to was the Bacon Wrap Matzoh Balls. Yes, I know, Bacon is like my krytonite. Anything with bacon, pork, pig will be my epic downfall. Unfortunately, my hastiness caused me to almost burn my tongue. The matzoh ball is hot! I should have left it to cool down. I understand the combination. But perhaps it could be improved. I would try it again – the combination sounds too good to pass up.

I also ordered the Manischewitz-braised pork belly, clapshot and apples. I have no idea what it said – except for the “PORK BELLY”. Hence my weakness. This was actually really good. It is comparable to the pork belly that I had at Animal. Though Animal’s was better – with a crispy and melty mouth feel. The mouth feel at The Gorbals was melty all around.

I apologize for the low light images. This was my old Nikon point and shoot. This was actually a dessert.


Octopus with Gizzards & Lemon. An interesting combination.


This was a bone marrow appetizer. This was really good. I like the pumpernickel bread. I don’t think they have it anymore.


Manischewitz-braised pork belly, clapshot and apples – all you have to say is pork belly and I am there.


Bacon Wrap Matzoh Balls. This is something I would try again.


Rating
2 pigs, $$

The Gorbals
501 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 488-3408
thegorbalsla.com
twitter.com/thegorbals

Gorbals on Urbanspoon
The Gorbals in Los Angeles

Lazy Ox Canteen [DTLA] – closed

On the edge of J-Town, yet still part of Downtown exist a new must-and-check-out space, Lazy Ox Canteen.

The cozyiness of the Lazy Ox Canteen.

Though I was dragged here from the recent artwalk, I kinda wanted to check out Lazy Ox, since I had heard about it, just a week or two before. Anytime someone who is bold enough to put a restaurant, fitting not of the same cultural neighborhood, better be good. Lazy Ox is in the Little Tokyo district of Downtown Los Angeles. Its like opening an Italian restaurant in Little Saigon in orange county.

The space the Lazy Ox resides emits a warmth that you feel when you walk into your favorite local local pub. Just past the bar, you see part of their kitchen. The brown hues give you a fuzzy welcoming feel. I usually like outdoor seating at most restaurants, but with the Lazy Ox, I’d rather be inside. The our large group got to sit on the high stools and table by the window.

Since I wasn’t that hungry at the time, we really didn’t get to try any entrees. Lazy Ox Canteen is mostly a tapas style restaurant. But their menu doesn’t feature many selections, but its their blackboard daily specials that excel. Next time I come, I will have to spend more time on the blackboard and pick better items.

The hand-torn egg pasta with sunny-side egg, brown butter & fine herbs stood out. It reminded me of simple meat-less but great tasting pasta dishes like Crustacean’s Garlic Noodles, Mi Piace’s Linguine alla Carbonara, and my favorite of late Liang’s Kitchen’s Special Onion Dry Noodle. But I was a bit disappointed. The Hand-torn Egg Pasta lacked a flavor I was craving. Perhaps by design, this might have been a home recipe of their comfort food.

The little drinking sides we different from what I was used to. We had Peruvian style corn niblets. This savory replacement of peanuts was something I couldn’t stop eating. We also had pickled cucumbers and carrots in which ordered 3 servings.

Unfortunately, the octopus dish, Charred Octopus with pickled shallots, corona beans, garlic-rapini & calamansi vinaigrette, had lima(or corona) beans. I hate lima beans. I hadn’t had one in years, but I tried one and remembered why I didn’t like it. Similar to the octopus dish from The Gorbals, this octopus was nuked till it wasn’t chewy. Understandably, chewy is not good, but sometimes is. I think westerners need to try to accept this type of texture more.

Their simple and easy to ready menu

The Cod Brandade Fritters with Yuzu Aioli.

Shochu Kakushigura soju. This was actually really good. Make sure you have it with lemon and ice.

Chicken Livers with Whole-Grain Mustard & Guanciale. I didn’t try this. I don’t like anything with the word liver.

Blistered Shishito Peppers with coriander salad, grated mojama & meyer lemon vinaigrette. This was not bad. I thought it would be spicy. It had good flavor.

The hand-torn egg pasta with sunny-side egg, brown butter & fine herbs. I wanted to like it more.

Charred Octopus with pickled shallots, corona beans, garlic-rapini & calamansi vinaigrette

Rating
2 pigs, $$

Lazy Ox Canteen
241 S San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 626-5299
lazyoxcanteen.com

Lazy Ox Canteen on Urbanspoon
Lazy Ox Canteen in Los Angeles

Strawberry Cones Japanese Pizza & Pasta [San Gabriel] – closed

One last Japanese entry. Ninjya pizza from Strawberry Cones Japanese Pizza & Pasta in San Gabriel.

The charcoal pizza crust.

This place serves the strangest pizza. The crust is dark colored – a shade of gray. There is mochi, a form of rice, on the pizza. And the toppings on the pie I had included shrimp. Pizza in Japan, even though it may come from Dominos or Pizza Hut, have localized their servings to suit the native palate. Seafood pizza is quite popular there. And now, we see Japan-ized pizza to the American shores.

It isn’t all that bad, but it just takes a bit of getting used to. If you are familiar with the Umami taste sensation, then you might be able to take on this. The combination of the different flavors creates almost that Umami taste. The crust, mixed with rice flout, is called bamboo charcoal ‘chikutan’. The visuals of the gray off-color may be a bit disheartening, let alone the strange toppings of either shrimp, mochi, avocado, salmon, etc.

Our pizza had shrimp and some dried seaweed flakes. The crust was crunchy on the outside, yet soft and a bit chewy on the inside. The shrimp with the dried seaweed flakes glued together with the cheese – melted an acquired taste concoction.

I don’t exactly think I can recommend this to just anyone. There are limitations to what people can take. But personally, I think I would try another combination, such as avocado and salmon.

I dare you to try the other pizzas.

Pizza crust mixed with rice flour.

Rating
1 pigs, $

Strawberry Cones Japanese Pizza & Pasta
227 W Valley Blvd
#118-B
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 293-1852
strawberrycones.com

Curry House [Rowland Heights]

This is the last in a series of Japanese restaurants. I started earlier this week with Yoshida Sushi, Shin Sen Gumi, Cafe Hiro, and now The Curry House.

Look for Curry House sign.

Curry House, a chain from Japan, specializes in a simple meat on rice meal with curry. Americans and people all over the world need their protein, in this case meat, with a starch, rice. As a friend of mine said, that at its very essence, its just meat on rice and its nothing special.

But I do feel that Curry House is special. This condiment, which it basically is, is a unique blend of spices forming a thick dark lumpy sauce – called Curry. Curry, with its Indian origins, goes quite well either chicken (my favorite), beef, and pork. In my opinion, it is doesn’t go well with seafood. But that’s just my strange palate. In addition curry also balances out the plain blandness of rice. One drawback is the resulting curry breath that you’ll have the rest of the day/evening. Your date will certainly smell it with each and every burp. Eww. . .

Today’s special was the Chicken & Ginger Curry. With rice one side and chicken pieces in the ginger curry. You can taste the slight flavor of the ginger in the curry, which you can request at different level of spiciness. Personally, I like it medium hot. The ginger naturally gives chicken a sweeter taste, which contrasts the spiciness and savoriness of the curry. That’s one thing you’ll never claim – curry ever lacking flavor.

Anyways, I encourage you to try curry. Curry done right at Curry House. I have had comparable curry at Hurry Curry in West LA, but I will save that one for another review.

I like menus with pictures on them.

Their lunch specials have salad and a drink with a curry entree.

The Chicken & Ginger Curry. Not bad. But I wouldn’t order it again.

Another curry entree. I am not sure what it is. But I think it was a seafood curry. Not my favorite. Though it does look like an egg.

Curry House
17865 Colima Rd
City Of Industry, CA 91748
(626) 964-4355
house-foods.com/CurryHouse

Curry House Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Cafe Hiro [Cypress]

I’ve never been a big fan of risotto, let alone a take Japanese on risotto. But I must say, Cafe Hiro does it pretty good. Make sure you save room for their Pot de Crème au Chocolat.

The pork belly with buns appetizer. Could be so much better with a little more fat and juiciness.

Cafe Hiro is a small Japanese restaurent situated in a mini mall in the city of Cypress. Cypress is on the border of Los Angeles county and Orange county. I’d say it is off the beaten path, almost in no-man’s culinary land. But they make do and attract a following from both counties.

The Japanese has always strive to produce excellent Italian style pasta. You can see pasta offerings at the Curry House, for instance. And at Cafe Hiro, one of their specialties is risotto. My friends raved about it when I first went. They said it is one of the best they had. They talked about how creamy it is. blah blah blah. . .

And this time was no different. I still ordered the curry. . . while my friend ordered the risotto. I tried the risotto. . .and I am still not a fan. I am not liking the consistency of creaminess. When it is in my mouth, I keep thinking it is sort of a rice porridge. I am not quite used to it. I don’t necessarily like the presentation – could be mistake for mush. None the less, it is flavorful. The accompanied fish was done well.

I had a chicken cutlet curry. It was done well. The side of pickled vegetables goes well with it. I must confess that I think highly of The Curry House. They do curry simply well. This particular interpretation compares quite well. The deep fried skin on the chicken cutlet is just right, not to thick and not greasy – the way it ought to be. Deep fried chicken dipped in a spiced cream curry sauce is a dangerous combination. If you have never tried it, I suggest you do. You could say that Southerners have a similar combination of fried chicken with gravy – such as that you’ll find at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles.

Anyways . . . Cafe Hiro is one of my go-to restaurants in OC. I’d like to add one last thing that I didn’t have a picture of is their dessert – the Pot de Crème au Chocolat. I am not a fan of Crème Brûlée, which is similar, nor a big fan of chocolate desserts. But this thing is worth the drive and wait, by itself. I have never had it before, and it is freakin’ awesome. Ok. I’m done now.

This oyster appetizer was nothing special. But the ponzo sauce is awesome. It was thicken to coat the oysters better.

The risotto with fish.

The chicken cutlet curry. Quite good

Rating
2 pigs, $$

Cafe Hiro
10509 Valley View St
Cypress, CA 90630
(714) 527-6090
www.cafehiro.com

Cafe Hiro on Urbanspoon
Cafe Hiro in Los Angeles

Asa Ramen [Gardena]

Asa Ramen is a late night local favorite. The idea of having ramen, alcohol, and being open late is a great combination. There aren’t too many places like Asa Ramen.

Asa Ramen’s menu.

I was dragged here after some drinks one night. I wasn’t even that hungry. But my buddy said that they had great Takoyaki – which is Japanese fried Octopus balls. I like Takoyaki. . .but I wasn’t that hungry for it. But then he says its a ramen, then I was like – well ok, I’m in. It’s the simple things in life that make the world go ’round.

Our order of Takoyaki came first. We soon gobbled couple of those up. They were as expected. Creamy on the inside with the slight crusty deep fried shell. The light fish flakes on top with the sauce on top. I think the sauce is the standard tonkatsu sauce. It was what you expect. Which is good. Unexpected things didn’t happen. Those are the types of thins you remember vividly. You would remember if the octopus was too chewy – but that didn’t happen. You’d tell any soul that would listen if the fried batter was undercooked – but that didn’t happen. You would twitter about about the sauce being too overpowering – but that didn’t happen. The takoyaki was as expected. It was fine.

Then we had our ramen. I’ve never had ramen with butter. It’s always had a little more “fatty-ness”, meaning pork fat or lard, as I have ordered at other ramen houses. But Asa ramen offers it with butter. I thought that was interesting. I had to get it. The ramen noodles were ok, not exceptional. But it was the egg that fascinated me. I don’t know how they do it, but they have a hardboiled egg with the yolk a bit on the gooey side. The egg white is completely solid with the yolk runny enough where it mixes with the soup base and noodles into creamy goodness. I love eggs. I would love to learn how to do that.

Anyways. . . Asa ramen is a nice little place to go for ramen and takoyaki.

Check out the egg. Not sure if you can see, but the yolk is not cooked all the way through. It is still runny.

A traditional presentation.

Open till 2am

Another shot of the menu.

The mini mall signage.

The takoyaki – octopus balls.

Look! Some cool looking bowls!

Small but cozy.

Look! More cool bowls!

Rating
2 pigs, $

Asa Ramen
18202 S Western Ave
Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 769-1010

Asa Ramen on Urbanspoon
Asa Ramen in Los Angeles

Shin Sen Gumi [Gardena]

Since I have been thinking of Japanese food lately, I thought I would continue on this path. Shin Sen Gumi has a small chain of specialty Japanese restaurants all throughout the LA area. They have ramen houses, chanko nabe, shabu-shabu, and yakitori. This particular Shin Sen Gumi specializes in yakitori.


Look for this large paper lantern. Most often you’ll see a crowd waiting for a table.

I have been going to this particular Shin Sen Gumi for years. I usually come just once a year. Shin Sen Gumi and its different variations make this trek to South Bay’s Japantown worth it. This is a local favorite for Asians in-the-know. But I’ve been told that the yakitori was better before. But I can’t tell the difference.

Shin Sen Gumi is not a fancy place. Its not uber clean place. It doesn’t boast Michelin Stars. It is hole-in-the-wall that locals claim their own. Though not cheap, it is well worth the money as well as the wait. But I do suggest getting reservations.

Yakitori is skewers of tapas serving sized meats and vegetables. Beef, pork, chicken are the popular animals used. Mushrooms and onions are the vegetables. There the chicken breast, the beef tongue, the bacon wrapped (everything), ground chicken balls, etc. Several of my friends will go through servings after servings of the beef tongue. If you aren’t used to it, I strongly suggest you try it. I think its pretty good. My personal favorites are the chicken skin, bacon wrapped tomatoes, and bacon wrapped quail eggs. I also like the chicken cartilage – it has a get texture.

You can’t come to this place without drinking. They have all sorts of beer and sake. This type of food goes great with beer. Good food. Great beer. All with good people.

This cabbage is sort of the appetizer that they give you.

Spinach appetizer. Simple and good. I think the sauce is sort of a ponzo sauce.

This was my un-fried rice ball. I didn’t want to wait for a fried one. I am not a big fan of the fried rice balls.

Fried Chicken Karaage.

Sausage on skewers. Not that good.

Pork. I believe this might be pork belly sliced on skewers.

Octopus balls. I love these things.

Bacon wrapped asparagus.

Ground Chicken balls.

Egg Side dish. I thin there was pork inside.

Beef Tongue.

Chicken Skin.

Chicken Breast.

A fried rice ball. I think it is too hard. I like my rice soft.

Bacon Wrapped onions.

Bacon wrapped quail eggs

Bacon wrapped tomatoes.

Their menu.

Rating
2 pigs, $$

Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori
18617 S Western
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 715-1588
www.shinsengumiusa.com/

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Shin Sen Gumi Yakitori in Los Angeles

Country Bistro [Rowland Heights] – closed

Country Bistro is a hidden gem that specializes in Taiwanese food and herbal soups.

Personally, I am a big fan of soups. I like Asian style clear soups. Western style, or Americans, prefer having their soups thick. Asians, mostly Chinese, like soups clear, broth-like or like a consume. These clear soups boost a lot of flavor. They are often cooked a long time. Southern Chinese, from the Guangdong province, will cook soups often for 24 hours at a time. Bone will dissolve into the soups. Broths will turn white from the white bones. Anyways. . .

How to find Country Bistro with their English Signage.

Country Bistro appears to be a typical Taiwanese restaurant that you’ll find in San Gabriel valley or in Rowland Heights area. But alas, their secret sauce is their soups – herbal soups, in fact. They have their regular Taiwanese favorites with fried pork chops and scrambled eggs with shrimp. But it seems everyone comes here for the soups.

I had to go over the soup menu a little longer than our waiter and my dining friends wanted. In fact, my friends were quite patient. I wanted to try several different soups, but I only got to try 2 – #8 bitter melon with pork ribs soup, and #5 Ginseng Chicken Soup. My friend got #9 Sweetened Snow Jelly & Lotus Seeds Soup. We also had the pork chops and scrambled egg with shrimp.

My 1st soup – the bitter melon with pork ribs, each served in a single cylinder bowl, came cover with foil with the #8 sharpie’d on top. The menu indicates that this soup helps promote digestion, promotes yin and lowers body heat – which is I guess they pre-make all their soups and keep them covered before serving. Soups don’t have to worry about heat lamps ruining the consistency or chemistry of food. That’s a good thing. As you pull off the foil you see a large bite sized piece of both the bitter melon and the pork ribs. You want to taste it, but you have to be cautious since the soup is pipping hot. Taiwanese people like their soups to be pipping and scalding hot. You then let it rest and go after the meat. The pork ribs were cooked so long that the meat would fall off the bones as you bite into it. The bitter melon, is by nature – well bitter, but you don’t notice the bitter taste, yet ever so lightly you do. This strange combination of a slight bitter flavor mixed with a subtle savory and oily feel gives it almost an Umami flavor.

My next soup – the Ginseng Chicken Soup is a favorite of mine. As you pull of the foil wrapper you see the chicken and ginseng. The ginseng is the star of this show – even before you open it up. On the menu, the claim is – Lowers body heat and helps prevent dehydration, promote reproductive system. As you can see Ginseng has multiple medicinal remedies. I think these soups are piggy-backing on the idea of drinks having secondary health benefits, like those from Jamba Juice, Robeks, and even vitamin water. I think soups are a great conveyor of their types of health benefits.

I wish I had a chance to try the Sweetened Snow Jelly & Lotus Seeds Soup. I know this, some Chinese dishes are served sweet and soups are no different. I could smell the aroma of the lotus seeds. This soup is said to – Helps Support The Respiratory System.

I would like to come back and try all their soups. They even have $1 soup specials. Anyways. . .

Their full Chinese Name.

Their English Menu for their Herbal Soups.

The Chinese Menu for the Herbal Soups.

The standard Chinese menu.

More of their Chinese Menu.

This is the how their soups are served. This is the #9 Sweetened Snow Jelly & Lotus Seeds Soup.

This is the Bitter Melon with Pork Ribs Soup. You can see the pork ribs. This soup is suppose to help promote digestion, promote yin and lowers body heat.

Another Herbal Soup.

This is the sweetened soup – snow jelly and lotus seeds.

Fried Pork Chop.

Scrambled Eggs with Shrimp.

Rating
3 pigs, $

Country Bistro
1380 Fullerton Rd
Ste 105
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 839-9889
www.countrybistrorestaurant.com

Country Bistro on Urbanspoon
Country Bistro in Los Angeles