Pork Sour Casserole at Happy Kitchen 柳棕園美食坊 [San Gabriel]

Pork Sour Napa Casserole

I’ve been an amateur journalist that eats for some time now. And occasionally, my friends will insist upon me trying a place. They will drag me to some corner place and lay claim as if they were preaching “the next coming” of some sort of beef. I might be given their used-car sales pitch about the chicken dish at their under appreciated hang out. Most of the time, it’s just their giddy excitement oozing out and everything being over-hyped. I’ll most often agree to some point, with me inside smiling politely, since the food is somewhat acceptable, than being stupendously awesome. Though I know I’ll hear their ire, if I don’t amiably agree a bit.

Yet in this case . . . Happy Kitchen did not fail to deliver. At Mr. B’s insistence, I was in a little San Gabriel Valley Chinese hole-in-the-wall crawl with him this week, I had to try Happy Kitchen. He said I’ll love this place and will want to come back. His family and especially his mom is even a regular.

Happy Kitchen features Chinese food from Harbin 哈爾濱. The cold winters are warmed with hearty stews, like their casseroles – the Pork Sour Napa Casserole. Almost a soup, this dish is only served in a large family style bowl. The sliced pork with the cabbage in the sour mixture instantly warms you up without being too spicy. Though it isn’t savory, or heck even sweet, and lacks some bold flavors, you can’t stop eating/drinking it. It doesn’t even look that appetising. But I couldn’t stop. The sourness goes down smooth with the cabbage melting in your mouth. The pork, with a little flavorful fat, gives a slight salt taste but good mouth feel texture. I guess the pork is the token protein in this dish. Then after awhile, you find glass noodles swimming at the bottom as a nice surprise to fill your stomach.

The owner/cook, from Heilongjiang 黑龍江省 the capital, often comes out from behind and chats with the customers. Here in the melting pot of Southern California, you’ll find Chinese, from difference provinces, enjoying Happy Kitchen. We were treated as long time customers, with a side their roast chicken leg.

I just found out, the week prior, that the LA Times did a nice article about Happy Kitchen. I would assume, that many outsiders (hint: white people) will discover this little gem. You won’t find the kung pao chicken, general tsao’s, moo goo gai pan or even orange chicken on their menu. You’ll find hometown comfort food like onion pancake wrapped beef and vegetable steamed dumplings. I was told that the onion pancake wrapped beef, better known as beef rolls, is much better here with the thin onion pancake. Other places are known to use thicker and oilier ones. The vegetable steamed dumplings were filled with finely chopped greens, tofu, and mushrooms, about to burst from the seams. With such armor, you don’t need soy sauce, but perhaps a little vinegar to go with the dumplings.

I remembered, with my mouth filled, I had concurred, actually nodded, with Mr. B, about his glowing sentiment about Happy Kitchen.

LA Times article on 2/18/10

What to Order: Pork Sour Napa Casserole, Beef Rolls
What not to Order: couldn’t think of anything

3 pigs, $

Happy Kitchen 柳棕園美食坊
301 W Valley Blvd
Unit #111
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 284-2619

The typical menu you’ll find in these hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants.

The Beef Rolls, notice the thin onion pancake.

The complimentary roast chicken leg. This was really good. I would have ordered this by itself.

Again, the beef rolls

Look for the glass noodles at the bottom of the pork sour napa casserole.

The steamed vegetable dumplings.

Very nice size. Look at all the fresh ingredients.

Happy Kitchen on UrbanspoonHappy Kitchen in Los Angeles

Steam Buns at the Noodle House 麵香園 [Monterey Park]

With such a name, as the Noodle House, you wouldn’t know this is one of the best Tianjin 天津 cuisine restaurants.

Tianjin is in Northern China, where noodles are the main staple starch in the area, hence the name – Noodle House. But we didn’t have noodles, but ordered the famous Tianjin buns (Baozhi) among other things.

The baozhi is made from a flour dough and steamed with different fillings. The type of baozhi that we had, was filled with pork and cabbage. There are other restaurants that have Tianjin Baozhi, but at the Noodle House, they’ve brought it as close to perfection as I am used to. The filling was just right, pipping hot and with good subtle flavors. But the steamed doughy buns, not all too thick, nor too thin, was just right. You only need to dip the buns with a little bit of vinegar to enhance the taste. Though I’m sure there are those from Tianjin who would argue that they’re not as good as they are, back home. The Tianjin baozhi, with a dry buns, would probably comparable to the Shanghai style steam dumplings, with a “wet” dumpling skin.

Baozhi and dumplings are rarely going to be the same as they are, from their hometowns, as pizza crust is difficult to duplicate. The key in producing proper baozhi, dumplings, and pizza crust is the water, which is mixed with the dough. The basis of a good mouth feel and texture derives from proper dough. That’s why it is difficult to have New York style pizza in Hong Kong or proper Tianjin Baozhi in Los Angeles.

Also on the menu, we had the wine hardboiled eggs – similar to that of Tea Eggs, but made with wine. Served cold, these eggs were a good change in palate from the hot baozhi’s. Tianjin is also know for their water dumplings – one of my favorite things in the world. Mr. B suggested that we have the fish water dumplings. I was hesitant, but relented. I thought there were ok, nothing special. I would have preferred some sort of pork water dumplings or something. I didn’t like the filling of the fish filling from almost a paste looking substance. In addition, we had probably some of the best onion pancakes around. Usually the onion pancakes are thicker and more oilier. Whereas the Noodle House’s are thinner and less oily. Thought I would have preferred it to be more flaky

I’ve had similar Tianjin Baozhi from Shaomai, and these taste so much better.

Eileen Likes to Eat Blog Post

What to Order: pork and cabbage steam buns (baozhi)
What not to Order: fish water dumplings

2 pigs, $$

Noodle House 麵香園
958 E. Garvey Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 280-0831

Straight foward menu. Easy to read and figure out.

The wine hardboiled eggs.

Onion pancakes. Quite good.

The fish water dumplings.

The fish fillings of the water dumpings.

The Tianjin baozhi filling. I would return again. One of my new favorite lunch places.

Noodle House on Urbanspoon
Noodle House in Los Angeles

Cracked Dungeness Crab from Crustacean [Beverly Hills]

Vietnamese, Beverly Hills, and Garlic Noodles equals Crustacean

Our food adventure tonight brought us to Crustacean. Originally we had planned elsewhere, but we were too late in planning and couldn’t get a decent time for the ten of us. Fortunately, one of us remembered an old favorite – Crustacean.

I don’t usually crave red meat nor seafood with shells (like crustaceans), but in this case – I had to order An’s Famous Roasted Crab with An’s garlic sauce and secret spices as a Cracked Dungeness Crab. Two other friends ordered the same thing. Another order the Drunken Crab – Whole Dungeness Crab simmered in sake, chardonnay, garlic, and scallions, and yet another had the Dungeness Crab Out of Shell. We also had an order of the Whole Main Lobster with An’s Famous Garlic Noodles. And three orders of the special fish of the day – seabass.

I had been to Crustacean before, but had ordered chicken or something stupid . . . without following one of my mantra’s. One of my mantra’s is to make sure you order what the Restaurant is known for, rather than think too much about something else. Once I was about to order chicken at Mastro’s then almost getting laughed out of the restaurants by at Bachelor party dinner. Anyways. . . this time around, I knew I had to get some seafood with a shell.

So after mulling over the crab and lobster, I finally picked the Cracked Dungeness Crab. Yes, I was a bit lazy in getting one that was cracked, but not too lazy in not getting the Dungeness Crab out of the shell. I guess I was indecisive about it – not a good trait for guys. Anyways. . . I admit I was initially scared when I saw the beast staring at me, piled high on the plate with the big shell on top. This was a huge portion. Then I went at it. After a couple of minutes, I ignored my fork and shell cracker and went all out with my hands and teeth. I was cracking the shells, like a kid or an animal, with my jaw and almost sucking the meat out. I had the garlic sauce drenched almost to my wrists. Mr. F even got his watch band soaked with the sauce. I licked my fingers as if I was at home with nobody watching. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one. The bibs did help, but not to my friends around as a shell whizzed past them from my feast. There was so much crab, that I wasn’t able to finish it. . . such a shame.

But I have reason why I wasn’t able to finish – two words – GARLIC NOODLES! In fact, that was the only thing I was looking forward to. I read somewhere that the matriarch of the family doesn’t teach anyone how to prepare these noodles. She has a special room in which she makes the noodles herself. Crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised. These noodles have a butter taste and a perfect texture when you eat. . . not chewy or too soft. The simple meatless and vegatableless side dish is a must-order. I can’t explain it anymore, but these carbs would make any Aktins practitioner rethink their diet.

I would also recommend not getting the mango lobster salad or the coconut tempura shrimp, not because it isn’t good, but because you wouldn’t have room to finish your entree. The salad has huge pieces of lobster, which we were arguing who should finish. The shrimp was also tasty with the fried coconut shavings, as an underrated dish.

Anyways . . . Crustacean is ideal Los Angeles style fabulous seafood restaurant.

What to Order: Crab, Lobster, Garlic Noodles
What not to Order: I wouldn’t order the fish of the day from any place, including restaurants in Beverly Hills. But in this case, it seemed alright.

2 pigs, $$$

Crustacean Beverly Hills
9646 Santa Monica Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 205-8990

A Beverly Hills institution.

Note “An’s Famous Garlic Noodles”

This page caused me to ponder my dinner selection way too long.

The Mango Lobster Salad. There shouldn’t this much lobster in a salad, ever.

Coconut Shrimp. This was really good, but I doubt most of us would have remembered it.

Say hello to my little friend. . . who I ate.

The Main Lobster. I think Mr. B made the right choice.

The seabass – fish special of the day. I rarely order fish specials. I think restaurants are trying to sell “fish specials” before they go bad . . . I still remember this note from Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.

An’s Famous Garlic Noodles. They don’t look like anything special, but they are.

I had to take a picture of this. These were the hot wet napkins for apres dinner.

Dessert No. 1. Looks like a Creme Brulee

Dessert No. 2. Tiramisu.

Dessert No. 3 Chocolate Cake.

Dessert No. 4 Flan. I didn’t have any dessert, unless you count a chilled shot of Patron.

Their famous Koi fish stream running through the middle of their restaurant lobby.

Crustacean on Urbanspoon
Crustacean in Los Angeles

OC Foodie Fest 2010

After attending the LA Street Food Fest in February 2010, I was skeptical about this one. However, I was pleasantly surprised and thought this event, The OC Foodie Fest, was better organized. I did not realize that media could go to the front of the line until another fellow blogger told me about this. Regardless, we bumped into our friend Dominic from Don Chow Tacos and we chowed down their 3 taco sampler – bbq’d pork, kung pao chicken and carne asada. Seating was plentiful and we had no problems finding a place to eat. It was super sunny that day and it would have been nice if there was more umbrellas for shade. Not happy that I got major sunburn on my decollage.
Passed by the major line at Worldfare Bus and decided to go for dessert instead at Nana Queens. We tasted their caramel flavor and original banana pudding. I heard great things about their pudding from two different foodies and unfortunately the pudding was warm and mushy. I really wanted to like it.
Cannot wait until the next mouth watering gourmet food truck event – Munch LA at Fairfax High School on Saturday, September 18th. My mission is to try Crepe N Around, Frysmith, Dosa and Lake Street Creamery.
Posted by FoodieplusFashionista

Hot Pot 火鍋 at Happy Sheep Shabu & Grill 小肥羊 [San Gabriel]

Happy Sheep Shabu Shabu is traditional Chinese hot pot restaurant featuring the goodness of Lamb!
The Duck Blood. This is something I don’t eat.

Lamb in certain cultures is the beef or pork staple. I know there are those who detest lamb in the utmost fashion. This allegedly gamey tasting meat has a bad reputation, almost like the crap-tasting foods such as lima beans. My friend Mr. G has ill feelings toward cilantro. Another buddy Mr. J also can’t stand celery. So, its no wonder, some people can’t stand lamb.

Anyways. . . hot pot is a usually for a special occasion at Chinese family homes – known as 火鍋. At this time of year, during Lunar or Chinese New Year celebration, which is the most important part of the year for Asians, families may have a hot pot together as part of the festivities. Hot pot meals are a fun interactive do-it-yourself meal. Koreans BBQ is another version of a DIY meal.

A couple of notes for novices
A. Make sure you don’t use the same utensils when handling raw food and eating cooked food.
B. Meats need not be cooked too long or else they will become too tough and rubbery.
C. Vegetables can be cooked for a long time, as well as tofu and duck’s blood.
There are advanced pointers that I could mention, but I’ll save that for another post.

Even if you don’t necessarily like lamb, but don’t if you are allergic, I would still suggest an order of the lamb. I would always try to order the signature dish at any restaurant. The thin slice of lamb, as well as beef and pork, cook quite fast. You only need to snag a slice and dip & mix in the boiling pot for a few seconds to have a tender cooked morsel. Personally, I don’t think lamb has a gamey taste. Once dipped in the sauce, you don’t taste that funny gaminess. The beef and pork are fine as well. I know I personally favor the beef over pork.

Chinese Hot Pot differs from Japanese Shabu Shabu しゃぶしゃぶ , in two major points. The 1st point is the soup broth – the Chinese will have a spicy pot 麻辣 or a non-spicy(slightly sour) pot, while the Japanese mainly use a clear broth with seaweed flavoring. And the second point is the dipping sauce. Chinese typically use a variation of a thick egg yolk with a satee sauce, mixed with green onions, chili, or other sauces. Japanese will use ponzo and a peanut based sauce. I like both hot pots.

Happy Sheep also has these little baked bread 饅頭 appetizers that are crispy and tasty. I don’t remember having these before, but I know we gobbled them up as soon as they came out.

Another thing, Chinese White Wine which we had, not alcohol from grapes, goes great with Chinese Hot Pot. This alcohol, made from rice, is some of the harshest shit. I would challenge any drinker to drink this stuff with me. At around 50% alcohol the taste has been described by critics as tasting like rubbing alcohol, motor oil, crap, etc. My friends know this drink all too well. But with the spiciness of the hot pot and the sourness, the white wine goes great. Imagine the bold flavors from the soup and the harshness of the alcohol – they together negate each other out.

Wandering Chopstick’s Post
Overseas Chinese Web Guide Post

What to Order: Lamb – because that’s what made this place famous
What not to Order: Lamb, if you are think it is gamey and yucky

2 pigs, $$

Happy Sheep Shabu & Grill
227 W Valley Blvd, #3
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 457-5599

Lamb comes fatty (suggested) and non fatty. Fat Lamb Sliced – comes marbled with fat for better taste.

The left side is the spicy Hot Pot. And the right side is the non-spicy but slightly more sour hot pot.

The thinly sliced lamb slices.

Chinese White Wine. It goes great with Chinese Hot Pot. It is also cheap.

Here’s our table. Notice the soft boiled peanuts in the foreground.

The meat cooks really fast in the boiling pot.

The bread appetizer. It come with 4 pieces.

Thank goodness the bread is complimentary and we can have as many as we want.

Little Sheep on Urbanspoon
Happy Sheep Shabu & Grill in Los Angeles

Even Marbling of Fat Enjoyed at Man Soo Korean BBQ 만수 [Koreatown]

Miss C made the daring selection for us tonight. Since she is Korean, I trust her judgment in K-Town selections . . . thank goodness. She said she noticed Man Soo, which was opening, while driving around in K-Town. . .
Grilled Octopus being snipped into bite-sized pieces. Take notice of the dipping sauce.

The thing about new Korean BBQ restaurants – it is said that they offer more(in their servings to entice new customers), smell nicer(since they don’t have the stench in the walls), and less crowded(till they get hyped up). But there is also a risk in being guinea pigs at an unknown restaurant. I like the idea of trying newly open places, but I also know that it may backfire with crappy food. But in most cases, since I am pretty flexible and hard to let down(foodwise), I am easy to please.

We were pleasantly surprised with the selection of Man Soo. Once you walk in the clean new establishment, you notice that it is a bit sparse. Undeterred, we sat down and ordered, since our stomachs influenced decision to stay. The Man Soo Gui – the boneless short ribs(kalbi) and the rib eye steak were on full page spreads in the menu – which we both ordered. The kalbi was their “most popular” meat dish – which was featured in full color on one page. Then, as you flip the page, you’ll see the rib eye steak – in all its full page glory. Once we got our raw meat, the round recessed iron cooking pan started to sear the meat fast. The waitress suggested, in its customary fashion, to add the bean sprouts as it is just about finished cooking – to be eaten together. With only 2 orders of meat – it was plenty for the 6 of us. I enjoyed the rib eye steak much more than the short ribs, as did my 5 other cohorts. The rib eye had a nice marbling with the proper fat content. The fat maintained the right texture as well as provided excellent flavor with each bite. I’m not “shorting” the short ribs, but it was a bit of a disappointment, coupled with the expectations from the menu and compared to the rib eye steak.

With the standard salt and salt with oil sauce, we were also given a nutty (sort of peanut) sauce. This nutty sauce was, in my humble opinion (IMHO), the hit of the night. Look for this sauce in the bowl that’s just a little bit bigger than the others.

One other thing I wanted to mention, was the grilled octopus. Already grilled and cooked, it arrives with a waitress snipping off bite size tentacles. With the sauce, and I emphasize WITH the sauce, the octopus was quite scrumptious. I rarely order octopus – except for a Tako Sunomono, but today’s was an exception. The grilled octopus is a complimentary dish for the BBQ. I last saw the complimentary octopus from Honey Pig, as well – perhaps its a custom or a trend.

And another nice bonus, the self serve panchan. The idea of getting your own panchan is a fun event in itself. Though at almost all Korean restaurants, panchan is complimentary and is never-ending. This concept, allows you to get what you want, at what quantity. There’s also the idea of not wasting what you don’t want. I think people will like idea. But you’d think we’d be picky and only select a couple items, but in fact, we almost got a small dish of everything. I know the egg/potato salad was quite popular. I know I enjoyed the kimchi.

Lastly, I must mention about the end of the grill selection – of either soy-bean paste porridge (Doenjang Juk) or stir fried rice with diced radish kimchi (Bokkeumbab). I wanted the porridge, but I was quickly overruled. Even the waitress suggest the Bokkembab. The presentation, which is similar to that from Honey Pig, starts with a clean grill bowl. But I would have thought they would have used our old bowl with the burned crispy goodness. But anyways, they pour in the radish kimchi soupy mixture, then dump in two bowls of white rice. They let it simmer and cook, then add in the dried seaweed to finish it off. Interesting but almost a let down, till we chopped into it. We almost forgot about the burnt rice texture at the bottom – which Chinese Fried Rice lacks. Anyways. . . I am going to push for the porridge next time.

We all agreed, at the end of the night, that we had to bow down to Miss C’s roulette of restaurant choice. This is a great place for a group of friends.

What to Order: Rib eye steak
What not to Order: I enjoyed almost everything I put in my mouth.

2 pigs, $$

Man Soo Korean BBQ
3423-3429 W. 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 388-9494

Porridge to be served after BBQ’ing. I would have liked to try this.

The Bokkeumbab choice was overruled by my lone selection for porridge.

This Kalbi Mansoo Gui. But not as good as the rib eye steak.

Notice the clean bbq bowl. Cooks everything pretty fast.

The large bells to suck up the smoke. I really don’t think these things work all that well, you still smell like Korean BBQ afterwards.

The self serve panchan bar. I liked this fun feature.

I think we scooped out almost all of the egg/potato salad.

This was the rib eye steak. The chunks were quite large. The fat content was just right.

Just starting to cook. I believe I didn’t get any pictures of the cooked meat, since I was busily eating it.

This was the Kalbi short ribs. I think they look very similar to the ribeye.

The radish kimchi soupy mixture, just before the rice.

The two large bowls of rice to be cooked together to form the fried rice.

Just before we closed the lid for more cooking.

Time to dig in! I think the fried rice was pretty good. But I still want to try the porridge.

Look for this sign on the corner of Harvard and 8th street.

Man Soo Korean B-B-Q in Los Angeles
Man Soo Korean B-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Afternoon Tea at Half & Half 伴伴堂 [San Gabriel]

Lately, I’ve been frequenting this little tea house, in the afternoons, to do some work. Half & Half is a quaint Taiwanese tea house in San Gabriel valley.

Their boiled water dumpling are really underrated and good. Their dumpling skin has just the right texture and thickness. I think I’ve ordered it almost every time I’ve been there.

You don’t usually find guys at a tea house on a weekday afternoon. With my flexible schedule, I was able to invade this oasis usually reserved for the estrogen genders. There’s actually a lot of cute girls that frequent this place. This is the typical afternoon tea meeting spot for girls in the area. The earthy tones give it sort of a non-commercialized homey feel, unlike tea station, ten ren, and other boba shops.

Their extensive menu has the regular teas, coffee, and juices. On the flip side, they also offer some typical Taiwanese cafe dishes. On the suggestion of a friend, Mr. B, I ordered the Boiled Water Dumplings – with pork and shrimp filling. I don’t usually like shrimp in my dumplings, but Mr. B’s insistence forced me . . . along with my growling stomach. Not expecting all that much from a tea house, I scanned the offering quickly, and dipped & popped one in my mouth. I had almost burned my tongue with that first bite, when I realized that this sucker was pretty darn tasty. I like it! I like water dumpling more than the fried or steamed ones. I think they are less greasy and is hard to mess up. I know Ding Tai Fung’s steamed dumplings are good though, and the Mandarin Noodle House’s fried ones are decent, too. Anyways. . .I just think you can’t go wrong with water dumplings.

Half & Half has a minimum order policy of 4 bucks per person, which is the price of one tea or coffee. I am not a starbucks drinker but I am a tea one, but I wasn’t sure what to order. Their menu has all sorts of different flavored teas. On the suggestion of the waitress, I ordered their popular Almond Milk Tea, sans Boba. On a side note, if you have balls, you don’t need balls in your drink. . . just my humble opinion. The Almond Milk Tea was really good – and since then I have only ordered it on my return visits. It isn’t too sweet and their crushed ice gives it a nice mouthy texture feel. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Anyways . . . bottom line, Half & Half is a nice little place for chicks and to people watch. They have free wifi and their drinks & food is not that bad.

What to Order: Boiled Water Dumplings, Almond Milk Tea
What not to Order: Anything with boba (unless you are female . . . guys shouldn’t have drinks with boba)

Other posts about Half & Half
Kung Food Panda’s post
Syb’s Blah Balh Blog
LA Musicteacher in Chinese

2 pigs, $

Half & Half Tea House 伴伴堂
120 N San Gabriel Blvd
Unit H
San Gabriel, CA 91778
(626) 309-9387

I don’t know how they are able to prepare everything in their small kitchen in the back.

A Relaxing place in which you’ll find young Asians having tea and coffee.

The frothy Almond Milk Tea, notice I didn’t order boba with it.

Their Butter toast on a big thick Texas toast. It is sweet. I don’t necessarily like it, but my friends do.

Their water dumplings are homemade and are quite good. They give you a soup to go with it.

Look for this sign on the corner of San Gabriel and Las Tunas, hidden in the back of a mini mall.

Half & Half Tea House on Urbanspoon

AYCE Korean BBQ Korea House [Rowland Heights]

I am not the biggest fan of AYCE(all-you-can-eat) places, including Korean BBQ, because of the impending repercussions. We all try to manage our intake, yet there are those that fail . . . like me.
Look for the signage off of Colima in Rowland Heights.

My friend, Mr. P, recommended the Korea House for dinner. He choose this place, as oppose to other nearby Korean BBQ places, since the Korea House lets you pick from the menu what you want. Other places in the area, don’t give you that option – they bring you their large first plate, which includes everything. As Mr. P said – “I want to have my Beef Tongue first before I have to have the other stuff (that I may not want first)”.

I think most non-Koreans like and/or assume that Korean BBQ SHOULD be AYCE(all-you-can-eat). Koreans would probably scoff at the notion that people think that Korean cuisine is AYCE Korean BBQ and kimchi. Regardless, I know some pretty good Korean BBQ that isn’t AYCE that’s pretty good – like Sut Bull Jeep, Chosun, Honey Pig, and DGM, but I’ll save that for later.

For the longest time, and perhaps because I think Korean cuisine is not as flavorly diverse as Chinese, I was able to order in Korean better that I could in Chinese. Since I had several Korean friends and used to work in K-town, years ago, I had learned how to order, in my humble opinion quite well. Chinese food on the other hand is more difficult, with the variety of foods from the different provinces. Anyways. . .

As I mentioned before, Mr. P had to have this Beef Tongue. The thinly sliced beef tongue is desired by many Chinese, but not necessarily the non-Koreans or the inexperienced. Beef tongue has similar texture as other parts of the cow, but is more evenly marbled with fat, providing great taste.

Along with beef tongue, we had spicy pork, beef spare ribs, soup, and shrimp. I never had shrimp, nor am a big fan of the crustacean class. But this shrimp, marinated with ginger, was outstanding. At first, when you see the raw shrimp, still with the shell, peeling makes it look a bit intimidating. Working at the shell – hot off the grill, was not fun, at first. But after Mr. P devoured his first 20, I decided to try a small one. It was actually really good. The ginger flavor kept it a little more than just savory, with a hinted sweetness coming through. Lucky for me, after my first, I was able to grab the last few.

But as expected, as I left, I had the stench of the restaurant embedded in my clothes. But was it worth it?. . . Yes it was.

What to Order: AYCE $19.99 deluxe with shrimp and beef tongue
What not to Order: N/A – AYCE $16.66 or $19.99, lunch for $9.99

2 pigs, $$

Korea House
18751 Colima Rd
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 965-2007

This was the menu featuring the AYCE . . . $16.99 and $19.99 (pick this one – for the shrimp and beef tongue)

This is the rice wrapper used to form the Korean taco. Interestingly, I never noticed this rice wrapper 15 years ago.

The all purpose green salad – you can eat alone as an appetizer or added in the Korean Taco to provide the necessary roughage.

Beef Tongue – I know it may be hard to image eating a big tongue from a cow. But I strongly suggest you try it. It will change your life.

The raw beef tongue in the foreground and beef sirloin in the background. Just prior to carnivorous event.

Spicy pork is really spicy. Beer goes really well with it.

The soup. Korean use 1 bowl for group and people will double dip with their spoons. It’s all good.

This was the steamed egg salad panchan (appetizer). It was pretty good. I liked it.

Our grill, with the spicy pork. Notice the grill usage.

The jumbo ginger shrimp! The unexpected surprise.

Korea House on Urbanspoon
Korea House in Los Angeles

Bossam 보쌈 at The Kobawoo House [Koreatown]

Not your typical Korean restaurant . . . Kobawoo has pretty good pork – bossam dish. It seems that I am attracted to pork, not sure why.

The Bossam 보쌈. You take a slice of pork and wrap it in a vegetable – lettuce or a thin radish sliver. Mix in some kimchi and peppers – and eat it like a mini burrito.

Kobawoo House was a choice for an early dinner for our little group. I had never heard of it. I was expecting some sort of Korean BBQ or something. The usual engrossing smelly experience. In addition, I didn’t have the requisite token Korean to accompany us. It helps to have a native to help us order and make sure we don’t get laughed at. So, in my mind, we were taking a big chance. But when we walked in, it looked like a traditional Korean restaurant with their big tables. I did notice the big air suction fans from the ceiling and the cooking tables.

But surprisingly, we didn’t order the Koreantown BBQ. I got a bunch of things from a sizzling plate of pork and beef. But I want to talk about their banchan – 반찬. They had an excellent mix of a selection kimchi, some egg thingy, little dried fish dish, and others. Sometime you can tell the quality of a Korean restaurant with the amount and variety of banchan that they offer. Some places only give a couple of dishes, but Kobawoo gave us like 6 or 7. And we had two servings for the 5 of us. Nice spread in my opinion. The kimchi, is what I went after first. I know I can handle too much “heat”, but I like the initial taste and mouth feel. Just thinking about kimchi makes my mouth water.

The bossam is what makes Kobawoo standout. I don’t think I have ever had bossam 보쌈 before. Guess it is my lack of K-town experience. Anyways. . .what you do it take the slices of pork and wrap it around leaf lettuce and wrap with peppers. This pork is steamed to a white-ish color. This pork was slightly fatty with a tender texture. I think I ate too many of these.

Pajeon pancake was pretty good. I believe it was a seafood pancake. I don’t like the chewy squid in my pancakes. I doubt white America would be ready for this dish to go mainstream. Not much more I can say. Personally, I like the simple kimchi pancakes. Kimchi pancakes are one of my favorite things in life. Anyways. . .

The sizzling plate of beef.

Pajeon, Korean pancake.

Bossam 보쌈

Banchan. I like the selection.

2 pigs, $$

Kobawoo House
698 S Vermont Ave Ste 109
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 389-7300

Kobawoo on Urbanspoon
KObawoo in Los Angeles

Bay Cities Deli [Santa Monica]

Based on the reviews on Yelp, Bay Cities is THE place for sandwiches in Santa Monica.
The Bay Cities Deli famous Godmother sandwich.

Unfortunately, I am giving Bay Cities Deli a big zero Pig rating for their sandwiches. A big 0! I won’t feel bad either. Maybe the people of Santa Monica never had a good sandwich. If you want a solid sandwich, I’d go to Langer’s in DTLA or Ike’s in San Francisco. But this place, Bay Cities, a big Z-E-R-O.

Why? Its their bread. Their bread is tough to bite into. You have to pull the sandwich from a tight grip with your teeth. Then you chop on the hard crust, only to rip the roof of your mouth. Then you continue to break down the bread till your jaws get sore. Its not a fun experience. Sandwiches are all about the wrapping – the bread. I had the standard Italian roll, as most everyone does.

With this mouth ripping bread experience, I am not sure why so many people are willing to wait, up to 1/2 hour to get their sandwiches. Then we had to wait another 15 minutes in line to pay for them. On top of that, the parking situation was horrible. Thanks goodness, the turnover rate is high, with people coming in and out.

I guess I will mention the sandwiches that we had. We had their famous Godmother with Genoa Salami, Mortadella Coppacola, Ham, Prosciutto, and Provolone, which had a decent flavor with the different deli meats. I did like the combination of the meats. I also had to try the Hot Pastrami, as I had to – to compare with Langer’s and Katz. Unfortunately, the bread just made me want to cry with this one. I figure I have to mention my friend also had the Veggie Only – with Avocado Spread, Cucumber Slices, Lettuce, Tomato, Pickles, Olives, Onions, Oil & Vinegar. Hmm. . .avocado spread sounds interesting.

Anyways. . .I would stay away with Bay Cities. And I hope you do the same.

The Veggie Only sandwich. Notice the bread. If you want a good sandwich with great bread – look for the Dutch Crunch at Ike’s in SF.

The Hot Pastrami at Bay Cities Deli. Nice try . . . but no cigar. If you want a good pastrami, go to Langer’s or even Canter’s.

0 pigs, $$

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
1517 Lincoln Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-8279

Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery on Urbanspoon
Bay Cities Deli in Los Angeles

Fried Chicken at Restaurant3 [Westside]

On the suggestion from a friend, Miss J, I was told that Restaurant3, formerly known as Cynthia’s had some of the best fried chicken.
Restaurant3’s Famous Fried Chicken.

I wish I wasn’t hyped up about the fried chicken. Otherwise, it would have been a good lunch. But here I was, expecting mouth-watering and show-stopping fried chicken. Their menu features many southern favorites, so I figured I’d be getting some old fashion fried chicken.

I am a firm believer that meats should be cooked with the bone, since the bone provides additional flavor. You see it with chicken, steak, and pork, and even fish. But at Restaurant3, their fried chicken was boneless. When I first saw it, I was a bit disappointed. But I think the taste of the fried chicken was good, but not great. It had good flavor and a nice fried crust, but I kept thinking it was basically chicken strips. With my high expectations, perhaps Restaurant3 was bound to be over hyped. In addition, their lunch prices seemed a bit high as well. Its too bad, since on this weekday lunch time, the place was a bit empty.

Anyways . . . I really was rooting for chicken to be great, but it didn’t come through.

15 bucks for fried chicken. . . .hmm. . .a bit high in my book.

Their dinner rolls were pretty good as well.

Miss A had meatloaf. A bit hearty for lunch. This was ok. I don’t think it is too hard to mess up meatloaf.

1 pigs, $$$

8370 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 658-7851

Restaurant3 on Urbanspoon
cynthia's RESTAURANT3 in Los Angeles

Drago Centro [DTLA]

Drago Centro is featured in dineLA’s Restaurant Week 2010. Check out their menu during their promotion. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try their dineLA menu.

Look for this display off of Figueroa Blvd. You can’t miss it. They have complimentary valet parking.

Drago Centro chosen on this night for a friend’s birthday, Miss M, which is also one of her favorites. In the heart of the city is Drago Centro, an upscale Italian restaurant for the urbanites of Los Angeles.

Dragon Centro has a nice space in DTLA, located off of Figueroa and 6th, with a spacious bar, glass enclosed wine display, high ceilings, and a nice heated outdoor patio, all smack dab in the middle of downtown high-rises. This is the type of place where high powered lawyers, prime time accountants, and smooth talking consultants have their power lunches and wet whistling happy hours. Basically, Drago Centro is your typical DTLA restaurant.

Tonight, our little dinner party ordered the crab pasta, the veal lasagna, chicken, and the ossobuco. I ordered the lasagna, la lasagna alla bolognese – veal bolognese lasagna, parmesan cheese, and was slightly disappointed. I should have listened to my friends and tried something else. I am a bit stubborn in that way. I like the comfort dishes, in which you know what you are getting. I expected great gooey cheese with a savory meat. But I got delicate flavors with a slightly less salty than expected veal.

Miss M got the crab pasta, the i tagliolini con granceola – dungeness crab tagliolini, tomatoes, basil. I had a small bite and thought is was really pretty good. As a general rule, I never thought much of crustaceans in pasta – not a big fan of shrimp, lobster, or crab in pasta. I always thought it is tough to do. Maybe I need to rethink my prejudices. My friends who saw my pics of the pasta, immediately pointed out and recommended this pasta as well.

My other compatriots got the chicken, the il pollo al tartufo – truffle crusted chicken breast, forest mushrooms, and the veal osso buco, the l’ ossobuco di vitella – braised veal ossobuco, endive, parsnips, almonds. I think the osso buco was much better than the chicken, yet the chicken was pretty good.

Drago Centro is located in the heart of DTLA. Not only great for happy hour and dinner, but also a great place for lunch.

Impressive wine vault in the lobby. I wish I had this in my home. . . .with the wines, too.

The bar lounge area. Comfy area with the outdoor patio nearby. Unfortunately, it was too cold to hang out there.

The appetizer cheese for everyone. Nice touch for a complimentary course.

My lasagna. I suggest that you don’t order this. Try the chicken or oss buco.

The osso buco. Nice presentation.

The crab pasta. Nice dish and was recommended by everyone.

2 pigs, $$$

Drago Centro
525 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Drago Centro on Urbanspoon
Drago Centro in Los Angeles