The two restaurants have nothing to do with each other. Just so the various visits took place all within a 7 day period, and both were within 2 weeks of grand/soft opening.
Tip Top Banh Mi’s building has endured a year-long build-out. This chainlet-wannabe was touted as LA Time’s best banh mi of late ’08 and some non-local bloggers/Chowhounders were going nuts waiting for this joint to happen. Wait no more, this place is total banh mi bargage. $3 for a regular dac biet full of cold cuts, filled with some marinaded daikon, carrots, sprigs of cilantro and couple sprigs of jalapeno. So far, so good, yes? There is no pate, but instead a very light slather of mayo and almost no soy. Still ok, but a bit expensive for the market. By expensive, think quarters and dimes. Then you take a bite into the slender baguette and instantly the jaw cracks.
The baguette is hard, dense by banh mi standards, and extremely toothful. The crust is evocative of French standards and yields to a rather bland concoction after a forceful bite. This is not a good loaf. Consuming 50% of Tip Top’s banh mi can cause temporomandibular joint disorder if you don’t already have TMJ. There’s no fluffiness to the baguette, there’s no pate. For a great banh mi that escapes the “dac biet” strangle hold, Thanh Tam in Westminster is still the bomb.
Then there’s the atrocious frozen yogurt larder also present in this super center of Asian food. The 10 flavors sampled during 2 trips were all atrocious in both taste and texture. Nubi and even Yogurtland will straight kill this food subforum.
Saving grace of Tip Top: coconut bread baked fresh daily. If I was a tween girl, I’d squeal and roll back my eyeballs. I’m not, so I cussed with pleasure.
Mac & Cheeza
Operated as a 2 shop franchise and chefed by the owner/chef of Larkin’s, Mac & Cheeza stands out as a new food concept in LA. They literally sell nothing but doctored macaroni and cheese (plus a couple of desserts) and offer nothing but 4 stools and 1 bench as seating (note: this was during second day of soft opening, current situ may offer). There’s no truffle oil, there’s no lobster, but there are loads of “toppings”.
The mac & cheese is pre-assembled with add-ons, then topped with pre-made roux that’s made from string cheese (ick), and then sent through a conveyor oven (think Domino’s; if you’ve worked in a mass produced pizza delivery op, you’ll understand the concept of such device).
Because of line assembled nature of this product, there’s very little actual real time “cooking”. The roux isn’t mixed into the m&c, there’s a definite feel of Subwayed product being served when the bill is being paid. The bill being $5 for a small M&C, $1 per addition of vegetable, $1 for add-in of meat topping. This sounds relatively reasonable until the discovery of only 5 bits of bacon and half a dozen bits of collards in the mac. $7 for $1.50 worth of ingredients. Again, those who’ve worked a Pizza Hut job will experience major deva ju.
Bottom line: this is a-ok if you’re craving mac & cheese that’ll leave you wanting for protein and a real meal 3 hours later.
Best thing about this place? The 15% coupon to Larkin’s found strewn all over the take-out spot, and the super cute mac art.
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