No. 7: all hikari mono meal at Matsuhisa
It’s been 10 years since I’ve dined at Nobu’s original pêcherie. It’s a bit cheesy, but this was a celebratory meal involving a chick and some blurred memories. What is real though, was Nobu’s presence in this dining room on a random Saturday. 25 years later, he is still a Hollywood sushi chef, sporting his chef whites while shaking the hands of the biggest fish in the LA biz. The counterpoint of this story though, is the stingy meal I partook at the sushi bar. The amiable chef was wildly busy, but had enough acumen to properly pace an all sushi meal (with a few simple touches interjected. An aside: do NOT get the tuna tartare with crispy rice. I did it ironically, but the resulting price wasn’t as ironic as I imagined. Without that invaluable ordering mistake, the Matsuhisa omakase full of silver fish would’ve been borderline affordable. Yes, affordable sushi at Matsushisa, I said. Why? Well, striped jack, mackerel and sardines are cheap (and sustainable) fishes. It’s not like I don’t enjoy tuna, or otoro, but with abandoning of that spicy red sauce comes the abandonment of red fish. Thanks Matsuhisa for a really pleasant, guilt-less fun doing the hikari mono menu.
No. 8: Bestia
In a matter of 5 days, we ate through the short dolce menu as produced by Genevieve Gergis, classical(?) musician, actress, wife of the chef, and co-owner of Bestia. The apple & pear crostata during the opening week was nice, but not Angeli Kleiman galette revelational. And so the next time we came, it was of course replaced by a briliant pear tart. The budino tart is rich, and attacks the senses more so than Mozza’s budino. Granted, Bestia’s pricey desserts do not carry the swagger and elegance of Shannon Swindle’s creations at Craft, but Bestia isn’t intent on being fussy. NB: The $12 budino tart is absolutely shareable. In fact, nearly all the desserts are shareable. DTLA finally has a place to have an adultly late night sweets without resorting to stupid home-made Twinkies from Towne Food or the purile efforts of Syrup. Still, I just wish there was a twist with every dish, be it candy, gelato, or fresh fruit — something, anything to make the $10 dessert hurt a bit less.
No 9: Continental Deli, La Habra, CA
This is a German deli in the BFE middle of nowhere in Southeast Los Angeles county bordering North Orange County. And it’s been there for twenty years. Undoubtedly they are no longer curing, smoking any meats and sausages (I asked), not even corning their own beef. Back in ’09, roast pork and meat loaf sandwiches were still available on the specials board, but at the end of 2012, with the price of correct cuts of brisket so expensive, the only thing Continental Deli is producing is the roast beef. Often, there’ll be reubens on the specials board. Get it. It’s one of the better versions of a deli between La Habra all the way down to Cypress. But it doesn’t end there. Continental Deli has a beer license, and the Spaten, always pronounced correctly, is only $3.50 for a small, $4.50 for a pint. Just beware of the Weihenstephaner Original Premium though. This ain’t the “good” abbey beer from Weihenstephaner, it’s like Budweiser’s evil twin, which to say, it’s undrinkable if not icey cold, kind of like anything produced in Korea. God bless this German family for fighting the mad suburban tract development and the Korean invasion of 2010.
Continental Deli, La Habra
No 10: Burmese anything
Eater Editor Kat Odell mentioned Burmese underground lunch being one of her faves of 2012. I had two of the same experiences at Burmese functions in LA this year. April 15 marked the annual Thingyan festival held by the SoCal Burmese association, and in 2012, it happened to be at an Alhambra high school, less than 10 minutes away. Dishes were all home cooked and sold by volunteers, homestead food act be damned. No LA DHS coppers rolled through, and it seemed a thousand people bumped elbows under the EZ-ups spread all over the high school campus. Each dishes were about $5, and there were enough mohinga vendors to run a thorough taste-off. Here are two highlights: spicy rice stick noodles soup and a chickpea tofu salad. Lovely stuff, and not controlled by any chef, or PR group, or restaurant mogul. That’s the soulful SGV we can all look forward to again in 2013. Hopefully the SoCal Burmese Association will bring back the masssive Thingyan Festival they held in Rosemead circa 2010.
[Bonus Round 1]
I really want to shout-out Jonathan at Oh My Pan. We first ran across these folks late last year while doing the “column” on Eater LA.
Sometime this Spring, Jonathan suggested I finally try their brick toast, and this beast came out. Now, I know a bunch of places do brick toast, and I know a bunch of places do boba, and I also know a bunch of Asian chefs are bouncing through Cordon Bleu Pasadena for their pastry program, but there’s just a small entrepreneurial (and culinary) spirit that sets this place a part. Despite the cool kids coming up strong in nearby San Gabriel in 2012, Oh My Pan has survived with nothing but a half decent location, and pure word of mouth. They have no active social media presence, and didn’t do any advertising on local Chinese papers. JC just busted his ass with vigorous baking and shaking. Despite being rather pregnant, the manager/co-owner was seeing holding down the POS on Christmas Day at 9:30 P.M. I recently told someone there is no honor in “toughing in out” as a pregnant woman hustling in the restaurant industry , so this just shows their desperation/dedication to keeping their means alive.
Oh My Pan
[Bonus Round 2]
Between October and December, I ate an inordinate amount of Soul food. After declaring Randolph’s a success, I fell off the soul wagon and didn’t really get back on until October, when the blog turned four. (Thanks to all who’ve been along for the ride, I really hope there are not four more years left to this stupid thing). At Aunt Rosa Lee’s, I found a very good $3 peach cobbler, and Bertha’s reminded me how I should go back for the fried chicken meal (upped to $8 instead of $7.50) more often. Bertha’s also reminded me restaurateurs and restaurant visitors alike can actually be nice to each other, despite working some rather harrowing conditions. And even Aunt Rosa Lee’s, despite being known for surly waitresses, churned out a commendable experience. I mean, they weren’t the friendliest bunch, but they don’t seem as hateful as Hunan’s Style Restaurant.
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