If, after you've exited the Los Angeles City Attorney's office on Hollywood Boulevard, acquired some smoking paraphernalia from No Limit Tobacco & Pipes, gotten a Thai massage, and decided upon a shoulder piece from Atomic Tattoo, you happen to be hungry, Truly Vegan is most happily positioned.
Seven tables of--I'm tired of always saying chlorophyll, so I'll say they're Dartmouth Green--line the walls. The pale golden floor might be bamboo, but is patterned to look like distressed wood planks. They may not be gushingly friendly here, but they are attentive, and despite its not being on the menu they kindly made me a sweet and creamy iced coffee when I asked.
I like my vegan food solid and hearty, and the Loafing About works for me. A lentil loaf is heavily seasoned and grilled, with onions and red peppers chopped finely enough so that they lend only their presence rather than a stubborn crunch. The texture is dense like hash browns yet almost pillowy. The loaf comes dry, and with it is a squeeze bottle of some really good homemade ketchup, and some white sesame blend with lime, almost like spicy, sassy milk.
Steamed broccoli and cauliflower are there to bolster the generally unused corner of my four food groups. I pour the sesame sauce on them, too. Fluffy brown rice is there too, not vital, but well-made.
The Lad Na is more liquid than expected for standard Thai, wide rice noodles falling nearly apart from their total immersion in black bean soy gravy. The gravy itself is a gelatinous, soupy lake that holds its heat like a muzzled dragon; draped over the broccoli and tofu, it renders them too hot to enjoy until they're well-blown upon.
You can add soy fish, chicken or seitan on this, more for the textural analog than for similarity of flavor. The Lad Na is even better the next day.
There's breakfast for lunch, too. It's good, occasionally, to move away from the astoundingly good but psychotically flavored specialties of some places. Several combinations of pancakes abound here, and the Breakfast of Champions puts them all together. Wheat free, gluten free pancakes are comfortable and surprisingly good, with maple syrup and melty vegan margarine atop. Two big, convincing patties of soy chicken are sliced like katsu and fried into something puffy, sweet and almost pastrylike.
The effect isn't exactly Roscoe's, but it's grainy and comforting, missing nothing except that feeling of creamy uselessness one gets after pancake breakfasts. A glass of cool vegan milk, subtle with that sides-of-the-tongue tinge of almond, goes well with this.
Parking is usually found along Hollywood, probably by the Toyota dealer.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Hollywood, Vegetarian/Vegan, American, Thai )
You have to hunt for it, nestled among hilly avenues where the 101 and the 110 meet. Dip under the awning; a darkened counter, slowly turning ceiling fans, and the hum of refrigeration units greet you.
It's not like my family, but it is familial, and these men are serious about what they do. Sandwiches are rapidly assembled and rung up; your drinks are (pointing to the left) over there, dispensed or bottled. There may be a brief sense of "am I doing this right? Where am I supposed to stand? Is it supposed to be this dark?" before you get into the rhythm of it.
So. You know how some places quaintly offer "meat lovers" items? This Eastside specialty chases them down, takes their lunch money, and leaves them with a painful wedgie.
Vegetarians look away! Carnage ahead!
... Okay. Proceeding.
This predatorial paradise is the D.A. Special. Layers of roast beef. Pastrami. And one Italian sausage. And a meatball. Each of these is high quality content and makes a superb sandwich on its own, but combined they become certifiable and knuckle-crackingly dangerous.
All that "is he gonna live, Doctor?" red stuff you see is a sauce of cooked peppers and flattened tomatoes that binds everything together and adds sweetness. Strong, soulful sheets of melted mozzarella lie underneath, maxing out my alliteration allowance for the day. The roast beef is dark and supple, the pastrami pink and fatty, both moist and covering the pale, snappy link of Italian sausage like a winter blanket.
Can it actually be picked up and eaten? Not yet. Eventually. Go at it with a fork for a while. In any case, the soft, toasty Italian bread will become worn and sodden and unable to perform its duties as a meat delivery device. Once you get through half, the strata of meat looks like an intense cross-section of something out of a textbook, and you will probably give up and wrap it to go.
A little more recognizable is the Combination Cold Cuts sandwich. A nice three-quarter-inch layer of ham, turkey, salami and mortadella is stacked with mozzarella, tomato and shredded lettuce. The soft Italian roll is not so overpowered here. A very light basting of mayo and mustard can be savored.
Their potato salad is very slightly sour, and I'm not wild about it, but the macaroni salad is well-mixed, and properly cool and creamy.
Eastside is open until four during the week and two on Saturday. On Sundays they take a break. Street parking can be found easily.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, East Side/Downtown, Deli, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
The first time we came here, the El Rey was hosting a goth industrial event, and our noses and sudden appetites led us here. If you're ever in a position to enjoy masala spinach tacos and tandoori chicken burritos at one-thirty in the morning while The Sisters of Mercy boom in the next room, you should do.
The new Silver Lake location is much more put together, less bustling soup kitchen than hip lounge, with rust-colored walls highlighted with fuchsia and violet. Hanging lamps of stained glass throw rainbows around the interior. The Buddha on the wall smiles demurely at the Buddha outside Gobi Mongolian BBQ.
Street food from India it might be, but Indian street food after a hungry band of caballeros rode through. The concepts of "tandoori" and "tikka masala" have had an illicit affair with "burrito" and "quesadilla" and "cheese fries," and the resultant love child is a strangely familiar satisfaction. Extra-virgin olive oil is used for everything, so the food doesn't get too heavy.
The tortilla chips are made from pappadam, which we think is the best idea ever. Jars of chutneys accompany it: a mossy green coriander with a nose-sniffy bite, a dark, vegetal mint, an adobe red that looks vicious but is really just a tamarind chutney, and a thick sweet brown with an applesauce consistency. At the El Rey location you get spicy sauces in big squeeze bottles.
The samosas here are bulky tricornered hats, gently steaming with curry-yellowed potatoes and peas. Three of the chutneys make a decorative lagoon around it. It's a fine appetizer, though not yet indicative of the crossover you're about to try.
The Tandoori Fish Burrito doesn't provoke brilliant words to describe it, but it is warm and friendly, a bulky mound filled with spanish rice, white fish painted golden with termuric, and the occasional sliver of lettuce, tomato or cilantro. It has an elegant, zenlike balance, and welcomes the occasional spoonful of one of the four chutneys. It works better than the chicken, which gets too firm in spots, and the tofu, which buckles under a burrito's weight.
Served open-face, the Naanwich is more of a Chicken Tikka Masala served on a puffy tostada than a sandwich per se. Potentially one could force the issue into a grand taco affair, but it works better as a dish with utensils and an edible plate. There are also fish, shrimp, spinach and tofu versions of this.
The naan (Bink likes the garlic, I like the whole wheat) is an excellent vehicle, barely sweet, just firm enough to resist cutting, and good for soaking up extra masala, or chutney, or anything else. It is gorgeous. Brilliant. The chicken collapses under the fork, and you don't notice the slow burn until halfway through. Spanish rice surrounds it, flavorful but unobtrusive.
Masala Cheese Fries! Richly red and fragrant, it's fulfilling like chili fries but seems, well, healthier. The fries are already good on their own, seasoned and crispy, but dragging long strands of melting cheese and orange masala sauce behind them.
Both the lime-lemonade and the Chai iced tea are subtle and refreshing, whether under a Mojave sun or a Mumbai sun.
Cowboys & Turbans is open until 10 according to the website, midnight according to the takeout menu, but they may stay open late when a club night is happening next door. Prices are a little steep, but if you've fought your way along the Wilshire corridor and found parking with the intent to eat here, you're already bloody-minded about having your Tex-Mexindian fix fulfilled. At the Silver Lake location, parking can be fought over with Gobi.
* I'm referring to tectonic plates, of course. You know... what the lithosphere is separated into? Didn't you study your geography?
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, Hollywood, Indian, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park )
Its corner has become a happy terminus for those who know Thai food. The decor is half homely, half elegant, the tabletops patterned with reviews from Jonathan Gold and the L.A. Times. Gentle piano instrumentals caress the ceiling*. The owner, Sarintip "Jazz" Singsanong, flits from table to table like a friendly hummingbird, checking on the joy of her regular patrons. Her brother and co-owner, Suthiporn "Tui" Sungkamee, cooks.
Jitlada specializes in the Southern Thai** cuisine of their childhood, characterized by a little more intensity and density in its flavors. The food is a touch closer to India, a touch closer to Malaysia, and a touch closer to the Sun. They offer typical fare at the front of the menu, with all the common Pad Thais, Tom Khas and Mee Krobs, but also a unique collection of Southern Thai dishes, the Capsaicin level of which pulls your trousers down and laughs at you.
The Thai Spring rolls aren't unusual but are a well-assembled starter. Veggies are rolled into thumb-sized rice paper drums and fried; the result is clean and elastic inside, armored with a golden crunch outside.
Daring deeper, these jewels have been written about and photographed in every Los Angeles-based food source. The Mussels on Flambé are grilled and kept bubbling in a broth over flame.
Pull the contents, shaped vaguely like dinosaur skulls, from shells alive with every color; the mussels are infinitely tender but resilient, and totally non-briny. The broth is simply amazing, thick with black and white pepper, opaque and soaring on the tongue. You will continue to pick up a spoon and take just one more sip from this.
Moving now with trepidation into the Jitladian Jungle, I try a familiar but savory Cow Man Kai. Pale chicken is laid over Hai Nan rice, which has tiny strings of ginger and is nicely sticky. A dish of special garlic ginger sauce adds sweetness. The effect is clean and fresh and wholesome; the scallion-dotted chicken broth that comes with this is a little saltier than that at Wat Dong Moon Lek, but it meshes well when spooned over the oily rice.
There is another dish you can see here, the green one, that contains Jitlada's special sauce, used for everything. It's brutal but attractive, and you keep using it because underneath the searing heat is an extraordinary pepper lime flavor.
My first real foray into this spice-bully world is the not-quite-on-the-back-menu Southern Curry, an amber collection of red and green peppers, jicama, potatoes, ribbed carrots, and textured chicken, light on coconut milk and cumin, confident with turmeric. It is immediately urgent, a most flavorful pain that doesn't let up.
See that scalloped dish of carrots and cucumbers on ice? They give you that to cool off the burn. It helps, a little. Not much. I'm told by the smiling waiter that this is "kind of entry level--you get past this, everything else, hmm, spicy, but okay."
My tongue begins to wonder if it's being burned at the stake for heresy.
Do I stop? No. It's so wonderfully polished and complex and just plain tasty. I'll just have to inefficaciously keep sipping tea and water. Both glasses are soon empty, and to my growing panic, not quickly refilled.
My glasses are fogging up. Wait. I don't have my glasses on.
I'm unsure which part of the title to use from the menu, so when I say that Bianca orders the khanõm jiin "Meuang Khon" 5 náam 3 dâng, I mean that she orders rice vermicelli with fish balls in a Southern curry sauce.
Vermicelli was not made for tomatoey Italian pastas. It was made for submergence in a richly yellow swamp of curry. A side dish of delicacies is intended for mixing in: green onions, cabbage, pickled cabbage, bean sprouts, cucumbers, and carrots. They add toothsome shapes of texture.
The sauce is not as hot as the Southern Curry, but they might well have been taking it easy on us. It's milky and light, and its spice leaps over the tongue like a panther for the vulnerable back of your throat. A single Singha beer does its best to calm down our nerves, which are getting a little frantic with the "it's a bit hot up here, sir, please send help" messages they're dispatching. It throws Bianca into an endorphin euphoria.
Jitlada can be expensive considering its Thai Town environs, but not considering its royal status in Los Angeles. Choose a specialty or a seafood item and the cost can leap over twenty per dish. The teas and coffees are usually three dollars and more. It's worth it.
The parking lot is there, but there will be cars in it, blocking themselves.
* And not necessarily the ones you'd expect. There's nothing quite like the realization that you're listening to a muzak version of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Whiter Shade of Pale," and the love theme from The Godfather.
* Specifically, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province, along the Malay Peninsula. In case you go.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Hollywood, Thai )
Probably, if you're one of the four or five dear, kindly people who visit this site, you've noticed the frequency of reviews has been a bit like a receding hairline.
I like to blame terrorists and penguins, because it's easy and fun. I look up from my work and realize oh, pus and hellation, my last review was five days ago. Bad blogger. No taco.
But, I may also take a bit of time off, for three primary reasons:
1) Work. My schedule has been fairly frantic and cramped, and my radius of lunchtime eateries has been swept like a radar screen. When I am hunkered down over a stubborn bunch of code, I am unable to escape for a leisurely lunch to visit somewhere new.
2) School. This is another semester of twenty or so books to read for classes, and it eats most ravenously into my food-writing and research time. I am more likely to be on JSTOR at the moment than on Yelp.
3) Health. I, shaking my head sadly over test results, am doing some battening of the hatches. Some numbers are too high, others too low, and while I slaver at the thought of writing about pancakes colored with a latticework of pale cream and grilled brown, or glistening, chewy-at-the-corners heaps of carnitas bursting with their own porkiness, I need to take a break.
Ah, but Dave, isn't this simply an opportunity to review healthy and vetegarian places? Sure, and I will. I haven't yet been to Paru's Indian on Sunset, or the Elf Cafe in Echo Park, Cinnamon in Highland Park, or even Cru, which is close enough to visit on foot. But there aren't that many. Besides, I am unlikely to bother reviewing a fair chopped salad at a restaurant renowned for its juicy, near-blasphemous steaks. It's unfair to the restaurant, and you.
It's not forever. I do have some reviews lined up and will post them, and will always continue to gather new worlds to conquer. This is my second-to-last semester before graduation. My culinary choices will be spread with moderation. Cobwebs will not accumulate.
Thanks as always if you've been here.
( Categories: Miscellany )
It looks cramped, but the interior extends a long, long way back, toward an enclosed patio replete with waterfall and koi pond. Paneled walls with Japanese woodblock prints add gravity to the sea of wooden tables, each separated by moveable dividers, like Tetris pieces ready to expand a party of four to a party of ten. The hubbub of patrons mostly drowns out the unfortunate thump of R&B grooves and pop rock.
Diminutive women in blue-print kimono wrap blouses dart between the tables, the glitz on their eyelashes matching that of their nails. A pair of plates with communal, baseball-sized heaps of ginger and wasabi are deposited before you.
Teru is not so much a place to establish a contemplative relationship with a dish of elegantly marinated monkfish liver. The style here is a little sushi-ya, a little izakaya, and like Tomo Sushi in Burbank, they think up creative ways to juxtapose ingredients and sauces. Your dishes are made quite quickly for such a bustling restaurant, and delivered almost simultaneously, boomboomboom, before you can ask "which one is this?"
I tend to avoid rice cakes like the stacked discs of packing popcorn they too often are, but the Spicy Tuna on Rice Cake is a statuesque creation; warm, fried blocks of rice support a cool strip of avocado and a fairly mild heap of spicy tuna. It is many-flavored, and I think it is my favorite of their specialties.
It has a brow-raisingly irreverent title, and it doesn't look friendly in pictures, but the Monkey Brain is also a favorite. An unlikely combination of mushrooms stuffed with crab meat and shrimp tempura is deep-fried into submission. The effect is a complex layering of warmth and softness, crispiness and umami. Two dipping sauces--a creamy sesame dressing and a red-swirled mayo--flank the reddish gold hemispheres, and end up getting used on a lot of other dishes when no one is looking.
The Sexy Roll is also sexier in real life than on camera, being a wicked foursome of albacore, crab, shrimp tempura, and avocado writhing in one cylinder of rice, without a shred of nori in sight. The roll is made even rarer, in that it is then drenched in a sauce of creamy sesame dressing and spicy red oil, cohabitating but refusing to mix. The effect is lush and worthy of a couple of repentant Hail Marys.
I'm unsure how traditional the use of beef is as a sushi component, but the New York Roll is welcome. Asparagus and green onion are wrapped in thin sheets of New York steak and grilled. Sprinkled with sesame seeds and draped in a non-sweet teriyaki sauce, the steak shows a tender quality, with a brisk crunch of asparagus stalk.
They do kushi fare here, too. The Chilean Sea Bass kushi yaki is hung over the robata until striped black; it looks like it would be tough, unforgiving, and stuck to the skewer, but it isn't. The sea bass is implodingly tender, to the point where you wonder why it hasn't disintegrated yet. Thin, serious cuts of scallion hold the gentle slabs of fish apart. These are eaten far too fast.
Because we can't say no to overly lavish dishes, we get the Panko-Encrusted Tuna Sashimi, different from a standard katsu dish like a Range Rover HSE is different from a Jeep CJ5. Tuna sliced into thick strips rests atop a hillock of greens, its fiery pink strata peeking from its panko crust. A little too much mustard sauce provides a gentle flare of spice.
Some people complain about the prices, but I expect they are used to "half off sushi" signs. With a party of four, three tokkuri of house saki, and a number of rolls and dishes, we came to under a hundred and fifty. Valet is a reasonable (for L.A.) $3.50.
Reservations are recommended on weekends, but Teru is open every night until a comfortably late eleven-o-clock.
Many thanks to Rosina and Doug for bringing us, and for being patient while I desperately snapped photos and scribbled notes.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Japanese, Burbank/North Hollywood, Seafood )