Belcampo: multi-millionaire-driven, dry-aged, grass-fed cheeseburger, Downtown

Downtown Los Angeles Belcampo

Note number 1: that’s Downtown Los Angeles, not somewhere up in Marin County.
Note number 2: sorry for all the hyphens.

Belcampo Cheeseburger, medium rare

The face of Belcampo is ostensibly a late 30s entrepreneurial mom from the Bay Area. The money behind Belcampo, however, is really a retired-in-name-only Wall Street gentleman who sold his brokerage firm, for $1.5B, at age.. 47/48ish. Money may not buy happiness, but money buys manpower to grow good California beef.

Belcampo is a vertically integrated conglomerate. That $12.50 burger above is a from a conglomerate that owns ranches, travel resorts, 20000-sqft USDA licensed slaughterhouse and meat processing plant, butcher shops, and restaurants. You could be eating a burger produced by Hyundai, one of the nastiest chaebols in South Korea, but instead of Kraft, it’s Belcampo. Thankfully Belcampo is focused on delivering sustainable protein from top-end down. Whew.

With a more than just a few million dollars, Mr. Robinson, now the chairman of Global Portfolio Advisors, a brokerage clearing house, has powered Mrs. Anya Fernald to backup Eat Real with some meat, instead of words. While Eat Real LA was mostly a tame bomb, Eat Real Oakland has expanded year over year, and Eat Real will reach Atlanta this year. But what good is a food festival when one can’t get a morally compassed burger in Downtown. In comes Belcampo with all its gloriousness.

Current Downtown Belcampo Menu

Will I eat another burger in ’14 other than what is served at Belcampo? Probably not. Is this is the single most expensive 1/3 pound burger in LA? As far as I know. Does anyone know how expensive it is to own and operate a USDA certified slaughterhouse? Rancho Feeding Co. does, (and they just got shutdown by the FDA, then bought out). Will Mr. Robinson ever be portrayed in Wolf of Wallstreet, the III? Hopefully not. Should he inspire us to make millions of dollars so we can hire our own Edibles CEO and run butcher shops? Yes to the millions, no to the cow blood.

The point of this is really to demonstrate how it took takes a one-percenter to bring “affordable” sustainably raised beef to the plate. No one else is doing this in America, save perhaps Blue Hill Stone Barn. We, as Angelenos, are lucky as hell that a rich and smart man decided to pay it forward. Also, hipsters: just shut up about rich people and eat the burger. It is way, WAY better than anything coming out of Umami/Comme Ca/Father’s Office.

Belcampo Meats Co.
Grand Central Market
(right next to the parking garage elevantors)
All over that social media
Belcampo Meats co on Urbanspoon

A. Zimmern Doesn’t Know How to Use Yelp; Or He’s Just Smarmy.

I’m just going to give him the benefit of the doubt (since I’ve never met the guy, and never watched a full episode of any of the shows) and say he’s just “doing it wrong”. User error, so to speak.

El Coraloense on Yelp

Back in ’12, he railed against Yelp. Eater, being NY-centric, gave him air time. A year later, he’s still none the wiser. In this “exclusive” Eater National coverage, Zimmern keeps going on and going on how he doesn’t need Yelp, ostensibly because Mario Batali is going to know where to eat in Clearwater, FL (where I recently visited).

Is there a Chicago Magazine equivalent in San Antonio where I once found myself stuck after dinner time? And will Andrew be able to crowdsource his way to a Cubano sandwich 5 minutes after landing in Ft Lauderdale? Can Zimmern’s twitter friends instantly come up with a useful map as below? (Belizean Blvd, Los Angeles)

Belizean Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

Is the man so desperate he’s still talking about a non-problem in 2014? This is my favorite from the interview:

I do not care what people — who I don’t know where they live, don’t know what their eating habits are, don’t know what sort of expertise or standards they bring to the experience — telling me what they think of a hot dog on the street or Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It’s meaningless to me.

But asking Siri Bourdain’s favorite place to eat in Ontario, California is actually meaningful? Please cut us regular food-lovers some slack. By “us”, I mean those who don’t have 99,999 followers on Twitter. Zimmern might be “no one’s food snob”, because he’s just a regular “presumptuous snob”. Presumptuous because the host guy knows more chefs and cheftestants than the Eater interviewer. Presumptuous because the celeb foodie thinks his Twitter followers opinions are any superior than those of Yelp users.

(May I remind everyone these particular followers are interested food in a certain weird way, fetishsizing what other cultures consider cuisine norms, and generally being condescending as hell?

Us plebs, perhaps a trucker, perhaps a corporate consultant with a low per diem, use Yelp. We use it wisely, we use it to find gems like El Coraloense and the latest restaurant openings. Sure, it’s also crowd-sourcing, but what exactly is the difference between the idiots that follow Zimmern on Twitter versus the idiots on Yelp? A hashtag? Or absolutely nothing.

Awards… errr, Food Festival Season is Here Already?

first up, LA Weekly Gold 99 Essentials on March 9. This is important because Amy Scattergood wrote the copy to the associated Squid Ink post.

LA weekly essential 2014

And there’s a French chef with his eyes barred. Also, they moved it to a different venue this year. Last year, it was at a car museum, and I was really REALLY afraid for the cars. I mean, fooding and driving just don’t mix. Tickets are $45 for GA, so the early birds won’t feel too bad about being baited by early bird ticket prices (which were exactly the same.) LA Weekly food critic Besha Rodell can usually be seen in-house, ready to field your complaints. Also, I might be there, to field those complaints.


Second up is the way more ritzy All Star Chef Classic at “Restaurant Stadium” hosted by AEG, at LA Live. The “premiere” event is mostly sold out, save for the less exclusive Sunday March 23 lunch tasting event that’s actually mostly not in the amazing “Restaurant Stadium:

All Star Chef Classic

One of the founders of this soiree is the inimitable Lucy Lean, who ran the last major Edible magazine franchise here in LA. That was such a brave move. Til this day I wonder what would’ve happened if she had a capable advertising staff. I mean, this was before Lucky Peach as a “thing”. It was so sad seeing all those Edible magazines being given away at restaurants (who are mostly advertisers).

Back on track: if you’re a man of leisure, the all-in (phone-in only) VIP package is available for $1250. There’s plenty of time for your firm to pick up that tab. Tickets to the general admissions to the Sunday tasting is $65, including unlimited booze.


Next up: Lacha Somtum is probably the best restaurant in Thai Town Los Angeles right now.

The new au coeur de Paris, Garden Grove

This is a Yelp copy & paste with a few photos thrown in. Yes, I’ve reverted to 2007 here in terms of writing effort. Sorry, not sorry?

Photo Feb 14, 2 39 05 PM

As I stand here after devouring the first pain au chocolat, I’m happy Wandering Chopsticks took the time to follow the signs posted at the original Edinger au coeur de Paris to discover the newly opened branch in Garden Grove. There are no signs facing the street whether coming from North or the South. There is no plaza signage either. But those who frequent Vietnamese boobie cafés will immediately recognize this plaza as the one shared by Cafe Di Vang II.

au coeur de Paris Garden Grove

While the Register tells us this branch is manned by the baker instead of pâtissier, the pastry cases are still replete with all the offerings at branch 1: check out the massive Paris-Brest, the affordable chocolate croissants, the 10 flavors of macaron, and the banging bargain that is the $.50 palmiers.

Basically, if you love things like the Gayet-Hollande affair, Nabilla Benattia, and Luc Besson films, you’ll love this place. Au coeur makes me so happy the French invaded and colonized Vietnam. Without it, we wouldn’t have banh mi, and cheap pastries in Little Saigon.

Of note: the shop closes at 4pm, so if you come later in the day, the pate chaud, one of the most popular savory items at the original shop, will have been hibernating under the heating elements for 8 hours. It’s still tasty enough, but best go early.


au coeur de Paris apple tarte

Since that earlier entry, I’ve returned to au coeur a couple of times to taste more of the pastries. The macarons here have a weightier filling, not as fluffy as say, Bottega Louie. Then again, macarons come and macarons go, and they’re just not as satisfying as a fantastic apple tart, which au coeur de Paris does have. The weightier custard word better in the eclair, so opt for that over macarons. Eclairs over macarons, always and forever. Nevertheless, the true gems here are the pate a choux and pastry dough. At $3.50, the cinnamon apple tart is a banging bargain, as is the $0.50 palmier, as is the $1.50 pain au chocolat and the $1.50 Vietnamese-French pate chaud hybride pastry.

The fact au coeur de Paris is also only 1 block away from one of Garden Grove’s best vietnamese “coffee” shops is just the proverbial vanilla custard on top of cronut.

au coeur de Paris
14221 Euclid St
Unit B
Garden Grove, CA 92843

Parrain’s Soulfood, Paramount and a Quick, Belated, Resolution

Parrain's Soul Food, Paramount

It seems fitting to always devote the first post of the year to soul food. Soul food isn’t too big in LA. You don’t have ex-Manhattanites shitting themselves over gumbo like they do over a plate of shredded chicken and rice.

Parrains fried turkey chops, fried chicken, gumbo

Hopefully, some form of cosmic balancing must be achieved through this post. Parrain’s is run by a cook from ex-Louisana. You’ll see him on the fryer when you come in during lunch. This is because the only lunch special officially listed at Parrains is the 2-piece chicken dinner. But there’s also Creole here. Witness the weekend-only gumbo (which officially is on offer by noon on Friday).

Coming here just makes me feel good. There’s so much pride in this restaurant despite the awkward layout that wastes too much space, despite the lack of a real sign, despite the dinginess of the neighborhood. I’ve been here a few times now, and every time they’ve treated me nicely, warmly, just like Bludso’s did back in 2007, just like Hambone’s did back in ’13. Relative to the curt experiences typicall being dished out by the SGV carb houses, every customer ought to feel like a king here.

The menu isn’t perfect just yet. There are only dinner portions, unlike majority of soul food restaurants hanging out between the 605 and the 405 (but always south of the 10). The dinner portions feed me for two meals. The specials, however, are key here. Sometimes it will be fried turkey chops, sometimes it’ll be shrimp poboy. Always ask as they are often a bargain. But turkey chops.. Wow! Does it get more Southern than this in LA? How many other restaurant in LA serves a fried turkey chop? (Carolyn’s, Mama Joan’s, etc.) And how many serves a fantastic BEP to go with one of the best corn breads in Los Angeles?

Parrain’s Soul Food


Also, in addition to still not eating any Huy Fong, it is necessary that I do not frequent any restaurant featuring “bespoke”, “artisanal”, “designer” $100 denin aprons that looks anything like this:

ridiculous aprons

Unless you’re a furniture wood worker, or a machinist, don’t wear denim aprons. They don’t absorb for shit, so please don’t pass the cost of $10000 in custom denim to us eaters. I’m OK if every server in every restaurant just wear $12 gap polos and $25 Levi’s. It doesn’t take $100 denim to make my food/dining experience better. Really. Bugger off with that craziness. No one at Parrain’s is wearing a $100 denim apron.

Not that I fish, but…

Gone Fishing

Ten Crappy things I Ate During 2013

El Diablo Taqueria fish ceviche

Mariscos at Vine Swap Meet

Mariscos El Diablo
4501 South Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90058


Apache Tacos

Apache Tacos Boyle Heights

Al Carbon tacos in East LA. Just because it’s made in East LA doesn’t mean it’s tasty. These carne asada tacos, grilled instead of griddled, were nothing but grizzle and tears. They were cheap, and they were cheaply made. O wait! They’ve closed? Great!

Apache Tacos
1843 E 1st St
Los Angeles, CA 90033


sandwich smith
Sandwich Smith.

Sandwich Smith, Little Tokyo.
Offered corned beef on the specials board, but no rye. I mean, what kind of cook would offer corned beef and no rye bread? A Korean team, of course. The fried chicken sandwich was sad, dry desert. For $9, every sandwich from Claro’s trumps this disaster. For a few dollars more, Mendocino also obliterates the menu here. And the equally expensive fried chicken kale salad? Tough, bland, and carrying the same sad fried chicken breast as the sandwich. What a freaking Little Tokyo tragedy.



Gaju/Kaju, Ktown.

Crappy “home style” Korean food. Everything reeked of MSG and generic gochujiang paste. The panchans were pathetic, and had nothing but vegetables. This place is supposedly known for kimbap, and it’s also supposedly known for dukbboki, AND it’s supposedly known for naeng myeon. What is it actually good for? Absolutely nothing. It used to be in food court, and charged a lot less. Now, the only thing to do with the pathetic kimbap is to dunk it in the dukkboki sauce. Check it out, anyone can be Roy Choi!

Yelp entry 1
Yelp entry 2
Yelp entry 3

Read more…

2013 Favorites: Bebe Fusion, Alhambra

Bebe Fusion is legit as hell. While they’re completely unrelated to the famous restaurant in Taiwan, 王品, there are actually several Wongs in the kitchen. I’ve been visiting since they were the dinky hole in the wall on Valley Blvd, and I followed them to Garvey, and then I quit ’em when they opened their third effort in Arcadia. Cause seriously? Has anyone tried driving up to Arcadia via local streets on a Friday night? EFF THAT NOISE Arcadia. I’ved lived in you, but I don’t want to see you any more.

bebe fusion Alhambra

Thankfully, Bebe Fusion’s Monica Wu reopened at (an extremely hidden) location in Alhambra last summer, and we fell in love all over again. I’m also a bit smittened with Monica’s daughter Belinda. She’s sassy and talks back. I love it because she’s all about her family’s economy and there’s supreme pride in the work, just like at Chengdu Taste. They’re not afraid of charging $50 for live dungeness crab. They’re not afraid to give you a little freebie, but they’ll let you know you’re special when it happens.

And the stinky tofu? Oh my fucking god. Even though they’re both good, don’t get the fried versions, don’t get the basil stir fried version:

Bebe Fusion stir fried stinky tofu fries

Go OG. Go all out and funk out the whole dining room:

bebe fusion stinky tofu
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