Despite it being rather convenient and much closer than Little Saigon, we hadn’t bothered to try this Westside Pho specialist due to mixed reports here on FTC and from other friends. Reading over the menu, it seems like an attempt at making a higher quality Pho, with things listed on the menu like “Mary’s Free Range Chicken” “Washugyu Beef” and Vegan Vietnamese dishes.
Natural Oxtail Pho (Bone-In Oxtail, Shaved White Onions, Green Onions, Cilantro):
The first thing that caught my eye was the paltry Herbs & Greens that get served alongside many bowls of Pho: Rotting greens is never a good sign. We’ve been to plenty of mom & pop shops in Little Saigon that present pristine Herbs & Greens, bright, vibrant and never looking like this.
The Oxtail Pho arrives and it’s a dark, cloudy Pho Soup base. Definitely different from the OG SGV legends like Pho Hien and Pho Minh. It’s decent, with an OK beefy flavor, but nowhere near as heavenly as those places.
The Oxtail itself however was tender, melt-in-your-mouth, delicious!
While the Pho had some problems during our 1st visit, we wanted to give it another shot, especially since the Oxtail meat itself was rather tasty.
Natural Oxtail Pho (Bone-In Oxtail, Shaved White Onions, Green Onions, Cilantro):
The Greens were better today, but it’s still a very barebones / minimal selection of Greens & Herbs compared to most legit Pho places around town.
The Oxtail on this visit was still quite tender, but it tasted a little bit less bright (maybe reheated), but it was still rather tasty. The Broth itself was the same as the previous visit, lightly beefy, warming, but rather one-note in many ways.
Washugyu Beef Pho (Rare Washugyu (American Wagyu) Steak, Brisket, White Onion, Green Onion and Cilantro Noodle Soup) + Beef Tendon Add-On:
We wanted to try the original Beef Pho to see how that tasted. The Pho Broth is essentially the same as the Oxtail Pho, lightly beefy but still dark, cloudy and rather straightforward.
Taking a bite of the Washugyu (American Wagyu) Rare Steak slices, it’s chewy, there’s no real taste of “quality Beef” that you might expect for “American Wagyu Beef”.
But then you get to the Brisket: Taking a bite, we both had to spit it out! This tasted like the rankest, old, borderline going bad version of Beef we have ever had in a bowl of Pho, anywhere! It tasted like reheated Beef that’s been sitting in the refrigerator for a good 5 days or more! That’s how nasty it was. It was flat out disgusting (and I don’t like using that word). It’s not even like it was maybe yesterday’s leftovers reheated. This tasted old, really old, like you forgot your leftovers in the refrigerator for days on end and then decided to reheat it and throw it in. It would make our Vietnamese cuisine experts cry (@Ns1 @attran99 @hppzz @JeetKuneBao @beefnoguy and others), let alone anyone wanting a decent bowl of Pho.
To add insult to injury this was a $19 bowl of Pho (including Tax & Tip).
3300 Overland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Tel: (310) 876-0910
We had bookmarked You Kitchen because of an Eater LA article about this new Dumpling specialist awhile back.
Walking in, the novel concept is that you place your order via a touchscreen computer at the front of the restaurant and then sit down. Later, when you want to pay, you go back up to that computer and check-out / pay.
Cucumber Salad with Garlic:
Decent, it lacked the depth of marination and flavor infusion of better versions of this dish around the SGV, but a nice starter.
Fennel Pork Dumplings:
A medium thick Dumpling skin, handmade in-house, it had a good mouthfeel. I enjoyed the Fennel with Marinated Ground Pork filling, but it was rather light on the Pork (it had more Fennel than anything).
Steamed Xiao Long Dumplings (XLB):
Yes, the English Menu lists their Xiao Long Bao (XLB) as “Dumplings.” These XLB were fine. There was very little Broth inside, and it wasn’t as soulful as Shanghai Dumpling House down the street.
Spicy, nutty, bold flavors that you’d expect with Sichuan-style Spicy Wontons.
Big Mouth Pockets:
One of the more unique, interesting menu items is their Big Mouth Pockets, which have an appealing, lightly crispy White Sesame-studded flaky exterior, filled with Marinated Ground Pork and Cilantro. It was generally tasty, but the Marinated Ground Pork tasted a bit old (like reheated filling).
1402 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: (626) 977-8088
Chef Timothy Hollingsworth’s flagship restaurant, the former Chef de Cuisine of The French Laundry came back to L.A. and opened up Barrel & Ashes, and then Otium. We were not impressed with Otium during its early days. Like @J_L’s disappointing experience, we went a couple times and just didn’t want to return.
However, watching Netflix’s “The Final Table” TV cooking competition, and seeing how Chef Hollingsworth was crowned champion, beating out a bunch of talented-looking Chefs from around the world, we wanted to give it another try, curious to see if it improved.
Opened in a smart location next to the Broad Museum, and close to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown L.A., it was at 100% capacity when we arrived.
Crispy Potatoes (Lemon Salt, Aleppo Pepper, Creme Fraiche):
These Potatoes were crisped up on the exterior with a moist, fluffy interior, a cross between French Fries and Breakfast Potatoes on the skillet. They were delicious. Highlight of the meal.
Fried Chicken (Hoe Cake, Maple Butter):
I know, I know @TheCookie, it’s a mistake to try, but seeing the words “Fried Chicken” on the menu, we had to order it to see how it compared to Howlin’ Ray’s. After all Chef Hollingsworth won Netflix’s The Final Table competition so that must mean something right?
Sadly, not really.
The Fried Chicken was mediocre at best: The batter exterior was sort of crunchy (no crispiness), a bit soggy in parts.
The Fried Chicken Breast portion was a bit overcooked, a bit dry but still had some moistness, but it was underwhelming.
The Fried Chicken Thigh with its inherent fattiness was better, tender, having a bit more flavor, but this was nothing like Howlin’ Ray’s Fried Chicken. Not even close. (@PorkyBelly @J_L @Gr8pimpin @TheCookie @attran99 and others.)
And it’s not even close to the runner ups around town. It is also not a joke when I say that the amazing Fried Chicken I had at McDonald’s in Thailand completely blew this away.
The Hoe Cake was tasty. Lightly sweet, like a delicious, fattier Griddled Corncake. The version Chef Hollingsworth made at Barrel & Ashes was better than this version now at Otium though.
Donabe Fried Pork Belly (French Toast, Maple Whip):
This sounded intriguing: Using a Donabe (Japanese Clay Pot) to prepare Fried Pork Belly. We were excited. Sadly, it was basically just used to hold all of the ingredients together on a metal wire frame, and to hold in smoke, so that as it arrived, the server would lift the Donabe lid and you’d get a rising poof of smoke. Partly for show, partly to try and infuse the smoke flavor to the ingredients.
That was fine, except that looking closer, you realize most of the individual pieces were fried bits of French Toast! It was laughable how paltry the Fried Pork Belly was (see pics above). And those pics were taken up close / zoomed in. There are Frisée Lardon Salads that we’ve had with more fatty Pork than in this “Main Course” of Fried Pork Belly.
So it turned out to be more of a Main Course of Fried French Toast squares with their Housemade Jam, with tiny bits of Fried Pork Belly on the side (which was unremarkable, tasting literally like Fried Pork Belly and Salt and that’s it). When they’re charging ~$34 (including tax & tip) for this dish, it feels like terrible QPR.
222 South Hope Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel: (213) 935-8500
Master Ha (Revisit)
Prior to the mini-heat wave this week, when it was getting chilly in the evenings and mornings, it felt like the perfect time for some delicious Suhllungtang / Seolleongtang (Korean Ox Bone Soup), so off we went to revisit Master Ha.
All 3 Banchan (Small Side Dishes) were very good. I liked their Perilla Leaf Kimchi the most on this visit.
Master Ha’s Ox Tail Soup:
As with most Suhllungtang places, you add your preferred amount of Salt and Green Onions. Tip: Start with 1 - 2 serving spoonfuls of Salt, mix and adjust from there. It can turn quickly from “underseasoned” to “too salty.”
As clean, beefy, pure, focused as before, with the long-stewed Ox Bone Soup base really being the star here. The Oxtail meat itself is succulent, tender, fall-off-the-bone delicious!
Master Ha advertises No MSG, and even without the flavor crystals, their Suhllungtang stands out above many versions around K-Town.
We also love that they serve a healthier Mixed Grain Rice (compared to plain Steamed White Rice). Thanks again for the rec @matthewkang!
1147 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Tel: (323) 998-0427
Chakan Sul Lung Tang (Revisit)
Just down the street is another newcomer to the Suhllungtang world, Chakan Organic Sul Lung Tang. We liked our 1st visit to Chakan last year, and wanted to see how they were progressing.
Chakan only offers 2 types of free Banchan with your dishes, not as tasty as Master Ha’s, but still solid.
Beef Bone Soup with Ox Tail (Organic):
As with other specialists, make sure you season your Suhllungtang before you dive in - a bit of Salt and Green Onions.
Chakan’s claim to fame is not only having No MSG (like Master Ha), but they use all Certified USDA Organic ingredients only (Organic Beef, Oxtail, etc.). Their Beef is Grass Fed Beef. A nice touch.
Taking a sip: Chakan’s Organic Suhllungtang Soup is maybe a touch less nuanced than Master Ha’s, but it’s still so pure and warming, lightly beefy, and the Organic Oxtail meat is also tender and delicious.
Add-On - Organic Beef Brisket & Tendon:
We ordered a Side of their Organic Beef Brisket & Tendon, which was equally delicious.
Sometimes all you need is just a focused, pure, elemental Soup, long-stewed, with quality ingredients. Add a bit of Salt and Green Onions and enjoy with some Rice and you’re good to go!
Chakan Sul Lung Tang
543 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Tel: (213) 388-5088
Ham Ji Park (Revisit)
It was also high time for a revisit to our favorite Gamjatang (Korean Pork Neck Soup) specialist, Ham Ji Park!
A solid selection of free Side Dishes with the meal, my favorites this visit were the Soybean Sprouts and Radish Kimchi.
Pork Neck Stew with Potato:
There’s a reason there’s usually a wait for Ham Ji Park if you ever stop by during prime dinner hours: It is precisely for this dish, their Pork Neck Stew with Potatoes. The deep crimson red soup has a sneaky Chili heat that builds up slowly, but surely. At first it feels just fine, but after multiple bites of the tender bits of Stewed Pork Neck meat, soaking in that fiery red broth, and then sipping some of it while enjoying the Potatoes and other bits in the pot, you start to sweat and sweat some more.
But it’s glorious and so addictive: Good porcine flavors, the deliciousness only achieved by stewing, and even the Potatoes - where do they get Potatoes that large from?! - are just a fantastic addition to this heartwarming dish. So good!
There’s enough food here to feed 2-3 people easily. As Winter arrives, we’ll be revisiting Ham Ji Park again and again.
Ham Ji Park
3407 W. 6th St. #101
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Tel: (213) 365-8773
Also on Pico at:
4135 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Tel: (323) 733-8333