Gaam [Koreatown]

Gaam is the ideal starting point for any night of fun, with its great drinks, grubbin’ food, and cool space. Boring restaurants won’t get you in the mood, but Gaam will.
 
Gaam features a great happy hour that me and my friend were able to take advantage of.
 
Gaam Happy Hour (taken from yelp.com)
Special Event sponsored by Cass, OB, & Chum-Churum
April-June – Everything on the menu is 50% off (Incl. Sake)
Mon-Sun – 5-8:30 PM
 
This was enough for 4 people to get thoroughly started. I know I stumbled out a bit buzzed. The fried chicken, the hand rolls, the soup, tempura, and sizzling beef were all part of the special. Also, the sake was included in the deal as well.
 
Other than the food and drink, the venue is quite possibly the best in K-town. You won’t find higher ceilings with an airy feel almost anywhere nearby. The low slung padded stools give Gaam an intimate feel with your friends – almost like you’re at home.
 
What to Order: Try to get there early to get the 5-830pm special.
What not to Order:
 
2 Pigs
$$
 
3465 W 6th St, 2nd Fl
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 388-8850

Porto’s [Glendale]

Who has not heard of Porto’s? Who has not gone to Porto’s more importantly. This Cuban bakery probably the most popular place in Glendale, perhaps even more than the Americana. Probably, just at lunchtime though.
 
Porto’s is known for their great sandwiches as well as their pastries and desserts. I was first made aware of this Cuban institution years ago, but never made my way over. Countless of friends have boasted about the sandwiches and desserts. So, finally, I found an excuse to see what the fuss is about.
 
The Cubano, with slow roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles all with Cuban bread is flattened. Everything is melded and pressed hot together unlike a typical sandwich. The flattening joins the juices and cheese physically together. Importantly, the bread is solid and holds well. The roasted pork has the nice texture and heartiness while the ham gives that added salty bite. Cheese, mustard, and pickles round out the sandwich’s flavor. This solid combination is tried and true, as pastrami with mustard or hamburger with American cheese. Similar to the Cubano is the Medianoche – the Midnight sandwich, which is only different with the sweet roll. The sweetness in this sandwich just confuses my mouth with all these flavors. But I know Miss B liked this one.
 
Another favorite that you’ll see everyone gobbling up is the potato balls. These fun filled balls of mini heart attack, for less than a buck each, are deep fried and are Cuban’s answer to the French Fry. Filling as they may be, the mashed potato is filled with seasoned ground beef. Oh so yummy! We also tried the Meat Pie, the Pastel de carne, which is a baked puff pastry filled with the same seasoned ground beef. I liked these more than the deep fried potato balls. I know I also tried the Chicken Pie, the pastel de pollo, which was a bit less flavorful than the beef ones. Later than day, I tried the Tamales, in which I got an order to go. I’m a big sucker for tamales. I thought the tamales were excellent. Just writing about this, I think I ate too much that day.
 
On top of it all, we even had dessert. We had a few different sweets as well. The fruit tart, the tres leches, sort of egg tart with vanilla. I apologize in advance for not remembering exactly what we ordered. But I would go out on a limb and say that anything you order from the dessert counter – you won’t go wrong.
 
What to Order: The Cubano, The Meat Pie or Potato Ball
What not to Order: Unless you like sweet beard, the Medianoche
 
2 Pigs
$
 
Porto’s Bakery
315 North Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203
tel. (818) 956-5996
fax (818) 956-0696

Chaya Downtown [DTLA] – closed

Chaya Downtown is the latest in the Chaya empire – including Chaya Brasserie Beverly Hills, Chaya Venice, and Chaya Brasserie SF. Capturing the downtown power lunch scene as well as the happy hour, Chaya Downtown features a full bar with great Asian-inspired menu.
 
This was to be my final meal as a resident in Los Angeles. The eight of us celebrate as if it was my birthday, when it seems like it would be my demise – since I would be moving permanently to Asia. I really didn’t want a big production, but my friends insisted on at least a dinner.
 
Our memorable dishes included the appetizers for bread – the Pork & Duck Rillette with Toasted Baguette and the Kalamata Olive Tapenade. I think we didn’t have enough of the spread or the bread. I know a couple of us, kept going back to the spread and the bread throughout the night.
 
The Tagine-Raosted Grass Fed New Zealand Lamb Chops & Merguez and the Grilled Dry-Aged Prime New York Steak & Braised Kobe Short Ribs stood out. Though there were a couple of orders of sushi plates and Sea Bass, the meats were heads and shoulders better entrees. There was also a Pork entree that I ordered, in which I forgot the name. But I do remember the savoriness of the protein entrees being quite good.
 
For a last meal in LA, it was memorable. In fact, with low expectations to the more flashy Drago Centro, I was pleasantly surprised. Though I wouldn’t recommend the sushi portion of the menu. The desserts were also very good. I didn’t enjoy the ambiance and decor of the venue. But I do wish it stayed open late for a bar and drinking crowd. It seems strange that almost all the restaurant bars closed before 11 or midnight, like Drago Centro, Chaya, and Bottega Louie.
 
What to Order: New York Steak and Pork Entree
What not to Order: Sushi and Fish
 
2 Pigs
$$$
 
Chaya Downtown
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017, United States
(213) 236-9577

Katsu Sandwiches at 浪漫館横浜 Romankan Yokohama, Breeze Center [Taipei] – closed

Romankan makes a type of sandwich that features a specific type of filling that is quite popular. This Japanese style sandwich is packed with a fried pork cutlet, or chicken one. That’s all you need, practically.
 
Romankan, brought over by Breeze Center, is smartly located in a high traffic area at the food court at the shopping mall. You can’t be help notice the lines for the simple sandwiches – which is all they sell. There’s a large window where you can watch each You’d almost wish they had their full menu from Japan.
 
Made to order, the katsu pork is battered and deep fried to a golden brown, then put together with crust-less white bread. Minimal additions, such as mustard, shredded cabbage, and tonkatsu sauce, complete the meal. They offer a couple of variations with Pork or Chicken in their simple menu.
 
If you imagine a standard American hamburger, you can kinda envision the heartiness of the sandwich. Rather than a grilled and greasy patty, the mouth feel is a savory, crunchy, and juicy pork or chicken fillet. The white bread holds the protein as well as offsets the sharpness of the tonkatsu and/or mustard sauce. If your sandwich has the shredded white cabbage, it is the equivalent of the lettuce and tomato you might find in an In-N-Out Double Double. Each of these sandwiches is presented as perfect as the images on their menus, unlike the burgers found in American fast food joints.
 
With outlets in Hong Kong and Singapore, Romankan Yokohama has made katsu sandwiches an art. I’m pressed to find a comparable sandwich anywhere else.
What to Order: Any of their sandwiches
 
What not to Order:
3 Pigs
$
 
浪漫館横浜 Romankan Yokohama
微風廣場 Breeze Center
台北市復興南路一段39號微風廣場B1F
39, Fu Hsing South Rd, Sec. 2, Food Court, B1
(02) 6600-8888
11am-9:30pm Sun-Thur
11am-10pm Fri-Sat
 

Colori Kitchen [DTLA]

Colori Kitchen is a small neighborhood Italian restaurant smack dab in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles. You drive right by if you weren’t looking for it.
 
What is lacks in spectacular opulence that Angeleno’s are used to, it makes up with solid Italian fare. You might pay more for the ambiance and food at Drago Centro, but at Colori Kitchen makes up with their intimate bistro.
 
The one dish that stood out over everyone else’s was the risotto. I am not a big fan of risotto, only because I think it quite similar to an Asia breakfast – rice porridge. But when done correctly, the risotto holds its texture well, as does Colori Kitchen’s. The Spaghetti Carbonara was also pretty good as well.
I still want to try the other dishes from Colori Kitchen. I know my friends were indifferent to their choices that night as well. Make sure you call for reservations, since the place is small and gets filled up fast.
 
What to Order: Risotto
What not to Order:
2 Pigs
$$
 
Colori Kitchen
429 West 8th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014, United States
(213) 622-5950

Golden State [Hollywood]

The new burger joint in town poses a threat to Father’s Office famous burger. The Golden State serves up great burgers, hot dogs, fries, and beer.
 
I have heard about the Golden State and has always wanted to see if the hype was all it was meant to be. And thus it has lived up to its reputation. The burgers are quite good as well as the hot dog that I sampled. But I must say the sweet potato fries are probably one of the best. They are the biggest and juiciest sweet potato fries. The thickly cut and fried to perfection. I’d go back just for the fries.
 
What to Order: Sweet Potato Fries
What not to Order:
2 Pigs
$
The Golden State
426 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 782-8331

Stacked Sandwiches [Arcadia] – closed

In my hometown of Arcadia, resides one of the best sandwiches I have ever had in my life. I couldn’t believe it, in my never-ending search for the greatest sandwiches. Make sure you get the Beef Barchetta.
 
The Beef Barchetta – Shaved low and slow roasted beef dipped in a chipotle-chili broth, pepper jack, fries, grilled onions, horseradish sauce, garlic-mayo, on a roll, is a fantastic sandwich. It doesn’t matter if the roasted beef, which is marinated and roasted from scratch on site, is tender and juicy. It doesn’t matter if the fries, an unusual addition, helps hold the sandwich together with the pepper jack cheese. It doesn’t matter if the horseradish sauce with garlic-mayo, and the dipping sauce brings out flavor profiles that really work together well. The thing that makes the Beef Barchetta, what it is, is the roll. Yes, it the bread. This sandwich can get wet, really messy wet – the the roll, which is soft and yet hard at the same time, holds everything together. Most people don’t think anything of the bread, only unless everything falls apart and produces a messy situation. But the Beef Barchetta, as well as the other sandwiches, are fortunate, as well as the customers, to have great bread like this.
 
If Stacked Sandwiches were in a different part of LA, they would do even better business. But hidden away, in suburbia – Arcadia, secrets like Stacked Sandwiches are here to stay.
 
When you get the Beef Barchetta. . . enjoy!
What to Order: Beef Barchetta.
What not to Order:
 
2 Pigs
$
 
Stacked Sandwiches
18 N 1st Ave
Arcadia, CA 91006
(626) 445-4455

Hank Moody’s Gjelina [Venice]

A Venice local favorite, this place is always crowded. Unfortunately for locals, outsiders – non-Venetians, have discover this fabulous joint.
 
Hank Moody, of Californication – a show on HBO, frequently hangs out at Gjelina. This super cool dark wood themed restaurant could be classified as a wine bar that also serves food. They feature wines from the US, France, Italy, as well as South America and others. Unfortunately, since I am not a big wine drinker, I didn’t sample their wines. I did try a beer, the Bear Republic Tribute Brown for $12. It was pretty good.
 
We also had the Black Olive, Fresno Chile, Anchovy, Burrata & Oregano Pizza for $15, the Pan Roasted Niman Ranch Pork Chop with Grilled Rapini, Mustard & Peppercorn for $25, and the Crispy Niman Ranch Pork Belly with Soft Polenta, Bitter Greens & Apple Cider for $11. I felt the pizza was excellent – I like anchovies and the crust. The Pork Belly was decent, but not exceptional.
I would visit again. I think Gjelina is good for small groups of 4, maybe 6. Also nice for a date, as well.
 
What to Order: The Pizzas – nice crust.
What not to Order: Pork Belly, but I might try it again.
 
3 Pigs
$$
 
Gjelina
1429 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291-3740, United States
(310) 450-1429
 

The Bazaar by Jose Andres at the SLS Hotel [Hollywood]

One of the trendiest restaurants in Hollywood and Los Angeles, I finally made my way to try Bazaar.
 
In one week, my last week in Los Angeles, I was able to try some restaurants that were on my short list. On the top of this list was Bazaar. I had heard so many mixed messages from friends, bloggers, and articles. Nonetheless, I knew I had to try it regardless.
 
Miss B and I, was able to get a reservation for a Friday night, only to be told that it was at an early 6pm table. When they called back to confirm, later in the week, I asked about more favorable times and got an ideal 8pm seating. This is a nice strat to use when getting call backs for table reservations.
 
Our waitress suggested that we order about 4 or so small plates per person, being that Andres meant for Bazaar to be a blend of tapas traditional with nouveau Hollywood style. We choose a smattering array of dishes, including a couple of their featured drinks – the Ultimate Gin & Tonic for $18 and the LN2 Caipirinha for $20. We started with Sweet potato chips, which we could have left off. Then the “Not your everyday Caprese” with the Olives (Modern and Traditional) came out with this molecular gastronomic treat. The cheese and olives were produced in a way that just pops and melts in your mouth. The Philly cheesesteak and Hilly cheesesteak featured “air bread” that was baked cheese inside with Wagyu beef and Mushrooms slices that laid gently on top. There was so much going on that your senses, usual taste ones, were being bombarded with the exciting visuals from the food and venue.
 
After dinner, we were lead to the Patisserie for desserts and coffee, just nearby. This whimsical area is full of unique items that MOCA would be jealous of. The desserts available included the coconut floating island, which we ordered. With a mango sour glaze, the delicate coconut shell, looking like a mushroom, broke its shell, with its gooey goodness oozing out. Accompanied with slices of banana, it formed taste sensations that I have never had.
 
Bazaar is the type of place where you can impress friends, out of towners, and dates.
 
What to Order: coconut floating island, the foie gras cotton candy, the hilly/philly cheesesteak, the caprese.
What not to Order: I would probably forgo the traditional Spanish tapas.
 
2 Pigs
$$
 
The Bazaar by Jose Andres
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills
465 S La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 246-5567

Slaw Dogs [Pasadena]

Slaw Dogs opened with much excitement in the blogger and yelp community. In the Los Angeles area, there is Pink’s, Fab Hot Dogs, and now Slaw Dogs. Each of them have similar diverse menus, but serving different locals.
 
Fortunately for the San Gabriel Valley, Slaw Dogs fills the void. If you know how I feel about hot dogs, from my post about Dogtown Dogs, you’ll know that I don’t stray far from the norm.
 
But on this day, I had to try the TNT dog – a 10″ rippered dog, chili, cheese, bacon pastrami, fries, grilled onion, wrapped in giant tortilla *fried egg. Basically, this is a burrito with a couple of hot dog. I have to admit, that I enjoyed this monstrosity. We also tried the Reuben dog – Butterfly spicy polish, pastrami, swiss, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, grilled rye.
 
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to accept the idea of a traditional reuben with hot dogs.
 
The cool thing is, the owner, who is Taiwanese, has a great background in running food services, restaurants, and hospitality organizations.
 
What to Order: The TNT – enough for two
What not to Order: The Reuben Dog – not sure if I would wish this upon anyone.
 
1 Pigs
$
 
Slaw Dogs
720 N Lake Ave, #8
Pasadena, CA 91104
(626) 808-9777

Robin’s Woodfire BBQ [Pasadena]

Robin’s Woodfire BBQ is an underrated BBQ restaurant. I can’t believe that I had never been to Robin’s after living nearby all these years. And I’m a big BBQ fan.
 
The Bodacious “Que” Stacker is the barbecue sandwich to end all barbecue sandwiches. With pulled pork, tri tip, and a hot link, all smothered with sauce and pepperjack cheese, you can’t possibly go wrong. The tri tip provides the meaty component, with the pulled pork the right texture. And then the hot link rounds out the sandwich with flavor. The cheese gives it another dimension, with its gooeyness. The sauce helps cake everything together, if a sauce can ever. This outstanding sandwich is making my mouth water, even though I am in Asia.
 
Almost an after thought, the mac and cheese was also quite good. The melted cheese strands was a different take with texture that I liked very much. Anyways . . . Great place, I only wish I went there sooner.
 
What to Order: Que Stacker
What not to Order:
 
2 Pigs
$$
 
Robin’s Woodfire BBQ
395 North Rosemead Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91107-3043
(626) 351-8885

Dogtown Dogs [Los Angeles]

Dogtown Dogs is yet another gourmet food truck. But I must commend them on keep it simple.
 
Hot dogs are meant to be simple. They don’t need to be fancy and have all the crazy trimmings. That’s what sausage is for. Hot dog can have ketchup, mustard, and occasionally sauerkraut. But I guess on this night, when I saw fried egg – I knew I had to have it. Heck you could put a fried egg and serve it with liver and I’d still eat it.
 
We also had some tater tots. I love tater tots. Even though they are processed potatoes, like hot dogs. They have a great shape and you can pop them in your mouth easily.
 
What to Order: Any of the dogs
What not to Order:
 
1 Pigs
$
 
Dogtown Dogs
Santa Monica, CA
(310) 663-2911