November 2019 Rundown

Phorage


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. :frowning: 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! :slight_smile:

2nd Visit:

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”. :frowning:

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. :nauseated_face: :sob: :frowning: It was flat out disgusting (and I don’t like using that word). :frowning: 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). :sob:

Phorage
3300 Overland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Tel: (310) 876-0910

You Kitchen


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 Wontons:

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).

You Kitchen
1402 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: (626) 977-8088

Otium (Revisit)


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. :blush:

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. :sweat_smile: After all Chef Hollingsworth won Netflix’s The Final Table competition so that must mean something right?

Sadly, not really. :frowning:

The Fried Chicken was mediocre at best: The batter exterior was sort of crunchy (no crispiness), a bit soggy in parts. :sob:

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. :frowning: (@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). :cry: 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. :expressionless:

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. :frowning:

Otium
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.

Complimentary Banchan:

All 3 Banchan (Small Side Dishes) were very good. I liked their Perilla Leaf Kimchi the most on this visit. :slight_smile:

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! :blush:

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). :slight_smile: Thanks again for the rec @matthewkang!

Master Ha
1147 S. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Tel: (323) 998-0427

http://www.masterhala.com/

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.

Complimentary Banchan:

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. :wink:

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. :blush:

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! :slight_smile:

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!

Complimentary Banchan:

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. :wink:

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! :heart:

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

http://www.hamjiparklosangeles.com/

13 Likes

@Chowseeker1999 the gaejang’ish marinated crab combo is good too at Master Ha.

2 Likes

The pork neck stew at Ham Ji Park has to be one of my all-time favorite dishes that gets even better the more you eat it. Don’t miss the dweji galbi (pork ribs) if you haven’t had those already.

2 Likes

Hi @Sgee,

Thanks for the reminder on the crab! I didn’t see it on the regular menu, but now that I think about it, they had a new small tableside picture menu (that I didn’t look all the way through); I’ll be sure to order it next time. :wink:

1 Like

Tacos Cuernavaca, East Los Angeles.

If you have ever spent time in the wonderful city of Cuernavaca, you have ended up during evening hours in the public spaces that fill up with the city’s residents after the sun goes down. An army of people selling toys and balloons for children, indigenous performers, and the smells and smokes from countless food vendors swell the plazas to capacity.

While this truck parked on the north side of Whittier Blvd may not have the tacos acorazados and pozole blanco from the capital city of Morelos, it does have plenty worth stopping for. Not the largest items listed on their menu, the most recognizable from blurry late night photos are the bacon-wrapped shrimp dishes, but come before a night of drinking and enjoy what stands atop the menu: picaditas con cecina ($8).

Be aware that this will be made to order by hand, so a bit of a wait will be involved but well worth it when the masterpiece arrives. While maybe a bit hard to handle with a plastic fork and knife, the trouble will be forgotten after a bite or two. Share one of their tables set up along the fence and start tearing away.

The picadita is available with both red and green salsa. The salsa roja is a Cuernavaca specialty, chile de arbol joined by peanuts to create a unique sweetness with its heat. On the most recent visit, this verde was procured and did not disappoint but future visits might return to the roja.

The perfectly griddled slab of cecina is placed on top of everything, the focus of meal. Salsa, crema, and queso all start to combine underneath the beef from the masa’s warmth. It is surprising to receive such beauty from the window of truck, it must be some of the best cecina in town.

11 Likes

Thanks @mchen! Yah, Ham Ji Park is wonderful, and we’ve had their pork ribs there as well. :slight_smile: Have you ever tried their cod roe soup before?

C&O Trattoria (Venice/Marina de Rey)
Our hour long commute for a night match for the chowpup, became an early dinner when the park lights turned off before the match even had a chance to begin. It wasn’t too busy, and they were able to push up our reservation to feed some kids who spent an hour warming up and another 40 minutes playing in the dark to keep warm because the city promised that the lights would be back on for the match.
The garlic knots are always great…crusty on the outside and slathered with garlic butter while being so fluffy on the inside. The kids loved them. The pastas were good enough to keep everyone happy and the service is always pleasant here.

Farmer’s Market Great Park of OC (Irvine)
On Sundays from 10AM-2PM across from the ice rink. It’s not terribly big, but there’s a nice selection of vendors…some I recognize from the Cerritos Farmer’s Market on Saturdays. Hopped over to check it out while the chowpup’s team was warming up. Didn’t make a purchase because I wasn’t prepared with a cooler…it was rather warm in Irvine today. But a friend and I discovered the Bee Ladies honey…raw and pasturized honeys. They had some interesting infused honeys (Meyer lemon, ginger, raspberry, maple) and some personal mixes with tumeric and other spices…items that would work well with tea for days when you aren’t feeling too well. The Meyer lemon honey negates adding additional lemon if you currently do that to your tea…it was great.
The chowpup got a post-match burger at the Baby’s Burger truck…there were a few different trucks today, too. The burger and fries he wolfed down before we were on the freeway home. They had an interesting Mia (Vietnamese sugarcane juice) truck. They had their own version of cococane which was refreshing, had great ripe coconut, and was a bit too sweet after a while. My friend tried the mia pomegranate mix, and really enjoyed it. It’s run by a very sweet Vietnamese couple who remind me of my parents.

Cream Pan (Tustin)
Made a pit stop for strawberry croissants. Got a 34 tray to split amongst a few people as thank you gifts, and kept a few for us. I tried their sandwich tray with an assortment of ham, turkey, tuna, and egg salad…the tuna and turkey were real winners. I picked up a cream pan for tomorrow and the chowpup asked for a strawberry shortcake as his dessert…he also wolfed that down before we we back on the freeway home. The kid scarfed down a full meal in 5 minutes or less and only played half the match.

Ajisen (Rowland Heights)
Dinner with the siblings. Once and a while we all have dinner together, and my brother picked Ajisen…it’s one of his favorites. I think they make a great soft-boiled egg and some tasty fried chicken. Their ramen is just fine, but I would rank it below Kitakata and Ramen & Tsukemen TAO.

Half & Half Tea Express (Rowland Heights)
Had to make a stop to bring home some boba for the husband and the kids. I really like the honey boba here…they manage to get it to the consistency and taste that I prefer. I also like their green and black teas. Not world changing, but consistent and a nice way to end the evening with the siblings.

9 Likes

At C&O, does the waitstaff still sing and go around toasting everyone when they play “That’s Amore”?

1 Like

Indeed, they do. There were a couple of birthday celebrations while we were there and the dining room staff went all out for a show.

3 Likes

I haven’t had the cod roe soup, will have to get an order of that on our next visit!

1 Like

Having enjoyed Al Watan for brunch with friends during the summer, I finally found time to go back on a Friday to try the weekday $11 lunch set:

It came with Indian Pakistani versions of Chicken korma; Aloo Palak (potatoes and spinach); Dal Chana (yellow split pea); chicken tandoori; seekh kabob; fluffy basmati rice; and scrumptious sesame seed naan. I also had Al Watan tea (aka “chai tea”).

All the curries were delish and the chicken tandoori drumstick and seekh kabob tasted fresh, not meat cooked from frozen. The Pakistani style of cooking doesn’t seem to use much dairy like Northern Indian/Punjabi so it was easier for me to digest.

I definitely found this more satisfying than some of the Northern Indian buffets I went to earlier this year such as Ashoka the Great in Artesia (vegetable dishes thawing out in the buffet; flat seasoning; dry meats; meat curries reheated from frozen) and Bombay Tandoori in Torrance (meats tasted off; not a fan of the seasonings).

I’m still on the lookout for a good Northern Indian buffet, though. Indian Oven in Brentwood was ok. Maybe I’ll try Indian Restaurant in East Hollywood next.

10 Likes

Pretty great weekday sushi

1 Like

Went to Night + Market Song a few nights ago for dinner because my husband was craving it and who am I to say no. On a chillier Thursday evening there wasn’t much of a line and so we waited only about 20 minutes.


Nam khao tod/crispy rice salad (vegan version) to start. We always order this. Love the textures and all the flavors. Also, I love onions (maybe because my name is pronounced similarly to the Vietnamese word for “onion,” haha).


Chilled peanut sesame noodles (Vegetarian. It would be vegan except it’s made with egg noodles). This was one of the specials of the day and since NMS’s specials are almost always something with meat, we were excited to try it. This was really, really good and I hope it’s on the menu again. It was topped with finely crushed peanuts and whole peanuts for a nice contrast in textures with the silky sauce. The sauce tasted mostly like sesame with a lot of umami and the egg noodles had a good bite to them.


Garlic green beans.


Pad see ew with tofu. I like how light their version is. Pad see ew can get really oily at other restaurants.


Mango with coconut sticky rice. I don’t know where they are getting mangoes that still taste this good because the last few mangoes I’ve bought at grocery stores have been just ok (not sweet enough, kinda fibrous). This was perfect. The coconut sauce is a more liquidy rather than thick or viscous, but it was flavorful.


Went to Little Sheep Hot Pot on Friday night, no pictures but I like their vegetarian broth and get a bunch of vegetables and the tofu platter with several different kinds of tofu. My favorites are the frozen tofu and the crispy tofu skin roll you dunk in the broth for only a few seconds.

(photo from yelp, ignore the meat) the tofu skin roll is on the top of the tofu platter. Not sure what the Chinese name for it is.

12 Likes

Poke Etc (Cerritos)


Here to report because Yelpers and the average customer doesn’t care but they STOP with the Limu Seaweed. If you haven’t had these Hawaiian/South Pacific Seaweeds like Limu and Ogo you are missing out. The shoyu flavor is fine.

Jus Poke in Redondo and Kawamata in San Clemente still keep it real

Al Noor


It was good/okayish. I just don’t have a taste for Indian food I guess which is shame because other aspects of Indian culture is a part of me (Buddhism, Yoga, Meditation, Krishnamurti)

4 Likes

Was in Gardena again for work on a weekday so I called Zam Zam market ahead of time to confirm they’d have food for me around 3:30p.

This is what I got:

Pictured: 1/2 orders of Chicken Karahi curry and chicken biryani; curry puff and naan; 2 beef kabab w complimentary yogurt chutney sauce.

I didn’t have $23 in cash on me, so I had to use my credit card (there’s a $10 minimum). Reminder to self: Carry more cash so I can get the discount.

The quantity of Indian/Pakistani food ordered at Zam Zam was double the amount of what I got at Al Watan the week before, albeit more protein and no vegetable or pulse/legume offerings.

I like both restos located side by side In Hawthorne, but prefer Al Watan for the moist kebabs and tandoori meats while the colorful and spicy biryani rice dishes rein supreme for me at Zam Zam.

PS: Don’t worry @hungryhungryhippos - I only ate about 1/3 of it in one sitting :grin:

15 Likes

Lol that would have been one impressive undertaking if you were able to eat all that in one sitting!

1 Like

Hah! It’s not a mistake to try it. It’s a mistake to compare it with HR! :smile:

2 Likes

Biriyani Kabob House, Little Bangladesh.

As with any street in this general area, you will also see signs in Spanish and Korean, but the bright white sign here is the simple advertisement for a simple place. Enter via 3rd Street or the mini mall’s tiny parking lot to find a workaday dining room and order at the counter. A very long menu for such a small place greets diners, as do specials on bright TVs, which may actually be to its detriment as it becomes overwhelming and may steer folks away from what the shop does best.

As might be determined from the name, biriyani is the absolute star here and nothing like some of the dishes labeled as such around town. There are too many instances of spiced rice and meat dishes getting this name, but kacchi biriyani (here spelled kachey) needs a long cooking process, the meat and the rice must slow cook together. This type of preparation requires someone with extraordinary attention to detail to make sure the meat is cooked just right.

Kachey lamb biriyani ($9.95) is excellent. The spices and aromatics pour out of the basmati rice when the plate is placed in front of you. It is a marvel how well everything is cooked together, at this price point in Los Angeles there might not be a better version.

9 Likes

I find the only reason to go to phorage is if you have some poor friend who can’t or shouldn’t eat gluten and wants Viet food. Agree with you on the pho, though ours wasn’t rotten, just boring. I got the pork broken rice once, wasn’t very good, the pork is actually better at Pho Shop (and it’s not very good). I’ve heard that Nong La on Sawtelle is better, though just passable. Honestly I just end up at Pho So 1 in Van Nuys, it’s a 15-20 minute drive from west LA after traffic.

1 Like

Lovin’ that place since 2015! :smiley: