Sunday, May 5, 2013

Kotoya (Los Angeles)

Continuing my journey throughout Los Angeles I quickly noticed that I yet to sample a ramen house despite the fact that they a dime a dozen on the west side. It has been almost a year since I have moved here and I had not been able to coral any friends to go. I was finally able to check this off my list last month when I had some family visit town. 

As we galavanted around town my sister had requested getting ramen because there are only a handful in DC. I decided on Kotoya which is right off of Santa Monica Boulevard by the 405. Kotoya opened its doors in 2011 by Shinsuke Horinouch who came from Asagaya which is a suburb of Tokyo.

Since opening its doors two years ago Kotoya has quickly become one of the most popular ramen houses on the west side. Not knowing how long a line would be I decided on taking them on a Sunday night to be safe. Luckily my tactic worked and we were able to get a table upon our arrival. 

My sister and I decided on the red ramen which comes in three ascending spice levels while her boyfriend went for the original ramen. The former consists of Tonkatsu which is a pork based broth, the latter also includes miso flavoring. Each bowl comes includes pork chasmu, green onion, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and nori. I added an egg and some corn to mine to give it some extra flavor.  

(Level 3 Red Ramen)

Loving spicy food I decided on going all out and ordering their spiciest broth while my sister went for the least. Once the piping hot bowls came in we all briefly stared in awe at the beauty of the presentation. We then began devouring our bowls, I tried to take it in slowly to appreciate the interaction of the various flavors. The broth was rich and full of flavor and while the spice level was hot I kind of wished there was a higher level for me to conquer. The pork was fantastic, I combined it with the richness of the egg yoke and a mouthful of broth that brought me to culinary heaven. 

We all left very delighted with the choice, each bowl was around $10 which is perfectly fine especially for what I got. I highly recommend giving this place a try. If it is your first time eating ramen or if you are a seasoned veteran you will be delighted by the quality of food here. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles (Los Angeles)

A week or so before I moved out west a friend of mine who had lived in LA for a few years saw it necessary that I visit Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. Being a fan of the famous sweet and savory combination I added this establishment to a long list places to try.

Ten months later I finally got around to trying this famous restaurant. A couple of my best friends were in for the weekend for a concert so I suggested a number of places to try while they were visiting. The day after the event our mutual friend from the area volunteered to take us all on a tour of some of the more historic and hidden parts of Los Angeles which included a stop at Roscoe’s.

(Photo via Yelp)

We all had the privilege of driving through Santa Monica where I live then going through Venice Beach followed by Marina Del Rey and then into South Central LA. We visited the epicenter of famous Rodney King riots and then went to Downtown to visit Koreatown, City Hall and the Financial District. We took a lunch break in Inglewood to try Roscoe’s famous Chicken and Waffles.

Originally opened in Hollywood in 1975 by Herb Hudson Roscoe’s has become an institution in the city of Los Angeles. Hudson, who was originally from Harlem brought this traditional southern cuisine to the west coast and introduced his restaurant to a number of his friends in Motown. Word spread quickly and since its inception Roscoe’s has opened five more stores in the metropolitan region.

While the origin of this odd combination of foods is shrouded in history Roscoe’s is one of the few establishments that has brought it into vogue. Anytime someone mentions chicken and waffles one of the first thing that comes to mind is Roscoe’s. I am well aware of its popularity so I was more than ecstatic when I heard that we would be going.

As we drove into the parking lot I could already feel my tummy rumbling in anticipation. We walked in and were immediately seated and handed our menus. I scanned the menu for about a millisecond before making my choice. I went for the classic Scoe’s # 1 which consists of a 1 /4 of a chicken served with two waffles and a side of syrup. I also paired that with a sunset which is a combination of fruit punch and lemonade to balance the massive sugar and salt intake with an extra lethal dose of sugar or as I like to call it breakfast in the South.

(Scoe's # 2)

The rest of the table followed suit and our food came out before anyone could even think about how hungry they were. Once the food hit the table I had visions of my trips down south. I don’t know if it was the Frisbee sized waffles, the ice cream scoop of butter lathered on top of it or the delicious scent of fried chicken but this definitely wasn’t a prototypical dish served in Southern California. Before taking a bite my arteries began to quench at what would be a meal that would shave a couple years off my life.

Each bite delivered a wave of intense flavor; I could literally feel a sugar high with every bite I took. I calmly cut off each piece of chicken and wrapped it in the butter soaked and syrup lathered waffle to make a miniature sandwich which was to die for. I got three quarters of the way through my meal with tears of gluttonous joy before I had to stop myself. My stomach could not handle any more so I left what remained to be taken away. I left the place feeling ten pounds heavier, sleepy and bloated. But the meal was well worth it, I also managed to sample some mac and cheese which was fantastic but probably not the best idea being in the state I was in.

We continued our tour for a couple more hours and found it almost impossible to eat anything for dinner. It was a fantastic day that was topped off with a grand meal that was well worth the slight pain that ensued. I highly recommend trying this place if you have a change, their chicken and waffles rank among the best I have had and at a reasonable price.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Le Saigon (Los Angeles)

My excursions through Los Angeles have brought new prospective on foods that I had only on the east coast. I have this belief that the closer you are to a foods origin, the more authentic it will taste. I put this theory to the test when with various sushi restaurants that I have sampled including Sugarfish, which was my most memorable. 

I decided to test my theory again with pho, one of my favorite comfort foods. Like Jerry Seinfeld I am a soup man, I love soup regardless of the climate or occasion. That said I do tend to have it only when it is cold or I am sick which are the only occasions people want to get pho with me. 

(Photo via Yelp)

To date I had a few unsuccessful attempts to gather people into going and trying a pho or ramen place. I finally gathered a worthy individual to try out a pho shop for the first time. I did some small research and found Le Saigon which is off Santa Monica right before you hit the 405. The place received 4 1/2 stars on Yelp so I figured people knew what they are talking about.

We ventured on a cold cloudy Wednesday afternoon which to me was the best time to devour a giant bowl of soup. The LA region had gone through a bit of a cold spell of sub-artic weather in the mid 40's, can you imagine the agony!! 

(Cha Gio) 

The restaurant space was fairly small and empty but we were there before 7 PM so I wasn't too shocked. I had looked at the menu prior to coming and was salivating at the thought of getting Vietnamese egg rolls which are one of my several culinary kryptonites. Once seated I ordered them before the waiter had a chance to go over the menu. 

The egg rolls came out relatively fast and were gone before my friend could ask me what was in them, he also order some per my suggestion. The rolls were fantastic but it did not seem like there was enough of a serving. I had read a couple reviews that attest to the fact that this establishment has small servings but brushed it off because of the high rating. 

(Pho Dac Biet) 

I followed my appetizer with my main course which was a basic pho with both well cooked and medium beef. Two pipping hot bowls of pho came out right after we had finished out appetizers. I could not wait to dig into it being as though it had been more than a few months since my last experience with it. At first glance the bowl it came in looked small to me as well so these reviewers seemed to have a point. I chalked it off and began my ritual of dousing the bowl in Sriracha, hot paste, and hoisin sauce.

The pho was mediocre at best, the broth wasn't as flavorful as other places I have been to and the beef didn't jump out at me. I was still ecstatic to have it and polished the entire bowl off before my friend was halfway done with his. I left feeling satisfied but not thrilled, it cost about $20 without tip which is way too much from what I am used to, especially when you consider the portion sizes were small as well. Sadly my theory did not play out in this instance but it was only one place so I hope the next pho shop I go to blows this experience out of the water. I'd recommend going if you are close by but it is average at best.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gravy Train Poutinerie (Los Angeles)

All aboard!!! Our next stop on my never ending food adventure takes us to another food truck in the Los Angeles area. The Gravy Train Poutinerie is another of the multiple food vendors that roams around the greater Los Angeles area. This particular truck serves patrons a number of different takes on poutine.

For those who are unaware of what poutine is, it's a fantastic and scrumptious snack from our peaceful neighbors to the north. In its most traditional form poutine consists of french fries lathered in gravy and cheese curds. The dish has become wildly popular over the years and is very famous in Jersey diners. I have had quite a few experiences with this dish and have come to love it, in fact I reviewed a truck similar to this in DC which has since closed.  

Every Wednesday a few trucks congregate in a lot near my apartment in Santa Monica. This hump day festival draws sparse crowds throughout the night and has become somewhat of bi-monthly ritual with two of my friends. Last month we attended because one of my friends, a native of New Jersey was dying to try this truck.

We arrived around seven to get a quick bite to eat before watching a movie nearby. I hadn't had my mind set on this truck so I perused around to see if there was anything else I would rather have. After a quick go round I decided to try this truck with my friend. They offer a variety of different takes on this dish including an Americanized version with tater tots and a fried egg or a Philadelphia style with grilled peppers, onions and steak both of which had me salivating.

I decided to go crazy and order their poutine sliders which consist of to miniature burgers topped with cheese curds, gravy and a side of fries. Being the glutton that I am I decided to cram as many fries as I could into each bun and eat with reckless abandon. 

The patties were a bit bland but the poutine enhanced the flavor and complexity of the dish. My friend had the traditional poutine by itself and allowed me to sample. I then had a few moments of nostalgia, times past with my old roommate who introduced me to this food and all the times we devoured in after a night of debauchery. I also remember the DC truck which had poutine on top of a hot dog which to date is one of the most disgusting/amazing meals I have had. 

(Poutine Sliders)

All in all I was satisfied with my meal. It was filling, well priced and tasted good. While I liked what I had I don't think this truck particularly screams for my attention. I wouldn't die to try this again but would recommend giving it a try if you love poutine or are interested in stuffing your face with fries and gravy. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Counter (Los Angeles)

Living in LA for a couple months now has altered my eating habits to align with the healthy culture that is Southern California. From fruit smoothies to fish tacos my daily intake has become much healthier than what it used to be. Right now I am actually flirting with the idea of being a vegan for a couple of weeks to see what it feels like. 

But every once and a while I reflect on how liberal I was with what I put in my body and immediately want to return. Resisting this urge is very difficult and doesn't help when your friend asks you to go to The Counter, a burger restaurant that allows you to fully build and customize your burger. 

The Counter is a chain restaurant centered on the premise of allowing customers to have it their way. I found out about this place the same way I do with most restaurants I try by sifting through Yelp. When I looked through the first couple of pictures and saw a burger that was the size of a car battery I immediately decided to bookmark this spot to try. After consulting with a few friends who had visited in the past I decided to set up a date to try it myself. 

I visited to their Santa Monica location on a Friday night with a friend who had been a couple of times. Like most chain restaurants the atmosphere was a mix of a bar and family friendly dining hall. Once seated we were both given clip boards with the menu on them. You have one of two choices, you can take the safe route and order one of their menu burgers or be daring and make your own from scratch. 

(Parmesan French Fries) 

I started building my masterpiece while nibbling on some parmesan french fries I ordered to start with. While Scanning the bevy of options over and over again an insatiable fever of hunger began to grow within me. I channeled my inner Ron Swanson to exuberant levels and set out to craft a burger that symbolizes everything that is great about America. 

I started with a 1 pound beef patty which is the biggest they had to offer on a regular bun. I then added apple wood smoked bacon and a fried egg to make it a multi-anmial burger. I was in the mood for spice so I added jalapenos and hot wing sauce on the side. I thought about incorporating some fresh aspects of the food pyramid but decided to pass because they would just take up space. I topped it all off with a couple of slices of sharp cheddar to give it components of a classic bacon cheeseburger. 

(My Amurica Burger)

Surprisingly it did not take too long for my burger to come out and once it did I stared in awe. Once it was set before my eyes I took my knife and pierced it square in the middle declaring it the meat lovers Amurica burger. I teetered off my power trip and sliced the burger in half knowing full well I could only eat half of it. I thoroughly enjoyed devouring the half pound of meat heaven, the patty was seasoned well and cooked medium rare per my request, the spice level was adequate and the egg wrapped the whole meal up. 

In conclusion I can say that The Counter serves a respectable burger. While I will not go out on a limb and say that it is in the upper echelon of burger joints that I have tried they do a good job at serving you a burger however you please. Prices vary depending on whether you order one of their menu burgers or a custom burger. I paid around $25 for my burger, fries and a beer so it is not cheap. I can't wait to try it again to see what crazy combination my mind thinks up of next.