b.o.s.


Photo credit: b.o.s. Facebook Page

b.o.s.
424 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 700-7834
bos-la.com

Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, right?

Planned by The Offalo, five of us had an amazing dinner at the soon-to-be-closed restaurant in Little Tokyo. I’m sure I’m not alone in trying to squeeze one meal in before the end of the month (they close on 9/27), and I’m sure that most of us are kicking ourselves for realizing just now what we’ve been missing out on for the past year. Yes, one year can be considered too soon for owner Jun to be throwing in the towel, but he’s a realistic person, and he and Chef David weren’t going to compromise their vision of how the restaurant should be in order to keep things barely afloat.

But seriously – what’s there to be scared about when it comes to eat offal? I mean, beef cheek, tongue and oxtail are considered offal. Those taste EXACTLY like regular beef! People eat hot dogs all the time. Do you people really want to know what goes inside most casings? With foods like bone marrow, uni (sea urchin roe), and foie gras (duck liver) still so hot right now (the latter outside of CA), there is definitely room for offal to be accepted by mass society. If there was only a place you can find such ingredients executed in an approachable manner from a classically-trained chef…

Instead of dwelling on what happened or what could’ve been, I just want to encourage everyone (all ten of you readers) to check out b.o.s. before their closure. While the restaurant has been labeled as a “nose-to-tail” restaurant this whole time (perpetuated by reviews and blog posts), it really isn’t trying to cater to the offal whores, but rather treat offal as you would a normal protein to integrate it into a more chef-driven form, with the hopes of making it more accessible to the common diner.

You can definitely see the passion Jun and David put into this effort, and while it was a losing one, they are going down swinging. There’s something very… romantic about that, and it shows up in everything the restaurant does. I’ll definitely try to squeeze in another visit during the b.o.s. swan song, and again I encourage everyone to do the same. Let’s send these guys out with a bang! I will keep tabs on both guys re: future projects.

Untitled

Carpaccio of Tongue – pea sprouts, avocado, pickled shallots, Isaan dressing

Sizzling Thai Tongue – Thai aromatics, lime chili sauce

Crispy Curried Calf Brain – butternut squash puree, arugula gremolata, grape compote

Untitled

Grilled Miso Heart – king oyster mushrooms, yuzu miso vinaigrette

Sweetbread Tacos – salsa verde, pico de gallo, sriracha sour cream, pickled radish

Housemade Turkish Sausage (off-menu) – ground beef, small intestines, rice

Fried Tripe “Calamari” & Small Intestine Chicharron – cilantro garlic yogurt dip, Isaan dressing

Roasted Bone Marrow – housemade furikake, 61-degree egg, sesame gochujang paste

Braised Veal Cheek Pasta – shiitake mushrooms, braised sauce, olive oil poached tomatoes, homemade pappardelle

Whole Roasted Oxtail – ras el hanout, farmer’s market vegetables (130-degree poached tomatoes, roasted heirloom carrots & peewee potatoes, pickled cauliflower w/ North African spices)

Beef Tendon Risotto – English peas, pea sprouts, radish, lardons

Grade: A-
Cuisine: Asian Fusion
Neighborhood: Little Tokyo
Price: $$$

B.O.S. on Urbanspoon

Sushi Tsujita

sushi tsujita

Photo credit: Sushi Tsujita

Sushi Tsujita
2006 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 231-1177
tsujita-la.com/sushi-tsujita

A brief first look at the new sushi restaurant from the Tsujita group that opened on Sawtelle last month, less than a block away from their ramen shops: we went a week after they opened, and my first impression was how pleasantly surprised I was by the dinner (disclaimer: we ate gratis , not as media, but as friends of Kenta-san, the Tsujita corporate chef). I say that because this is Tsujita’s first foray into sushi (to my knowledge), and I didn’t know how proficient they’d be at this. I’d say that for now it’s still below the likes of Shunji and Kiriko when talking about sushi in the area (as well as the city), but they compare very favorably to Q. The Tsujita folks certainly aren’t messing around when it comes to pumping money into the restaurant, and it shows in everything from the decor to, most importantly, the sourcing of the ingredients.

The restaurant brought Kato-san over from Japan to head the restaurant, and while he’s on the shy side (as well as speaking no English), he is surrounded by amicable itamae, who are veterans of places like Shunji. But make no mistake – Kato-san is the man in charge here. He’s doing the sourcing, he’s buying the groceries, and he’s doing the prep, right down to the soy. If I have any criticism, I’d say that the sushi rice can be inconsistent on a couple of nigiri. But it was only a week since opening, and there is nowhere to go but up for Sushi Tsujita. I look forward to returning soon, and hopefully will have the time to give a full, truly unbiased view. But thanks again to Kenta-san and the entire crew at Sushi Tsujita, who were excellent at making me feel at home.

FYI – they also started serving lunch, which includes chirashi and sushi set meals, respectively, at more economic prices.

Untitled

Steamed awabi (abalone)

Untitled

L to R: Aji nanbanzuke; Ayu w/ yuzu; Tamagyaki, hamoko (pike eel roe) & caviar

Untitled

Anago shinjo (sea eel cake/paste), yuzu & okra in dashi

Untitled

Whole steamed lobster

Untitled

Hata (grouper) kobujime sashimi (from Miyazaki)

Untitled

Momotaro tomato gazpacho w/ wine-soaked blueberry

Untitled

Kurodai (black sea bream)

Untitled

Shima aji (striped jack)

Untitled

Akami zuke (soy-marinated lean tuna)

Untitled

Kuromutsu (black porgy)

Untitled

Alaskan king salmon

Untitled

Hata, chutoro sashimi

Untitled

Amaebi

Untitled

Ikura

Untitled

Santa Barbara uni

Untitled

Saba

Untitled

Anago

Untitled

Otoro

Untitled

Miyazaki wagyu

Untitled

Okoze

Untitled

Kohada

Untitled

Tamago

Untitled

Melon compote

Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi
Neighborhood: Sawtelle
Price: $$$$ (omakase price points at $120, $150, and $180)

Disclaimer: Food for this meal was hosted (not for media, but f&f)


Sushi Tsujita on Urbanspoon

dineLA Summer 2014 (7/14-7/27) Picks

It’s that time of the year again. This is probably the bi-annual event most people in LA look forward to the most. For this Summer 2014 season, I’ll feature 2 new options at each price point – 12 restaurants that haven’t been featured in previous iterations of my dineLA analysis, as well as previously-featured options that remains such (let’s call those my “greatest hits”). Fear not, however, for I will also provide a breakdown of the other previous selections at the very bottom.

By the way, dineLA – what happened to the $85 dinner price point?

(all photo credits below belong to Discover LA)

LUNCH:

$15

ciboteca1779068_613688768680052_834865407_n0Ciboteca
(Sandwiches, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 8am- ) Optimal Lineup:
– Toscano
– Spinach + arugula
– Milk chocolate cupola mousse
– (soft drink)
Estimated Savings: $9
Notes: Ciboteca is a new panini shop from the Piccolo group (whose Hostaria was and still is a BUY at $15, and whose OG Piccolo is pretty much a dineLA HOFer at $45). They don’t feature the sexy $9 panini options for dineLA though…except for the Toscano, which has Finocchiona (a Tuscan fennel salami). That’s why I’m here folks – to dig this type of information up and game the system. But this is a very good deal for $15: you get a panini, a salad, a pastry, and a fancy soda. Not too shabby.

Settebello (Marina del Rey)
(Pizza, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 11:30am- )
Optimal Lineup:
– Panzanella
– Settebello
Estimated Savings: $8
Notes: This deal is only for the Marina del Rey location – sorry Pasadena folks. I like Settebello. I think it deserves more love amongst pizza lovers in LA, especially seeing how Neapolitan pizza is so hot right now. And for dineLA, you basically get the first course for free. There’s lots of parking, and they don’t get very busy from my experiences. lazy-ox-canteen533920_10150815488361072_476536022_n010GREATEST HIT – Lazy Ox Canteen
(American, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm) Optimal Lineup:
– Shishito peppers
– 7oz lazy ox burger
– Rice pudding
Estimated Savings: ~$15
Notes: I’ve been disappointed by Lazy Ox Canteen by their progress (or lack of) in recent years. After Chefs Centeno and Rocher left, it’s as if the restaurant became content served a limited menu of their greatest hits from Day 1. In the case of dineLA though, this works to their advantage. Proven dishes at a STEEP DISCOUNT – this menu was already a BUY at the $20 price point, but they went ahead and took it a step further. Percentage-wise, this might be the best dineLA deal of the season, lunch or dinner.

$20

Border Grill (Downtown)
(Mexican, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am- )
Optimal Lineup:
– Scallop tiradito
– Enchilada de camarones
Estimated Savings: ~$9
Notes: The menus for the Downtown and Santa Monica locations of Border Grill, respectively, have different menus for dineLA. However, the savings actually look to be almost exact – which means both locations are a BUY. I chose the Downtown one to highlight, because it’s within walking distance from my work. But if you prefer tacos over the other entrees, go to the Santa Monica one.

Muddy Leek
(American, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Fri 11am-3pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Tomato salad
– Shrimp & grits
– Gluten free beignets
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I actually don’t know much about Muddy Leek, other than that I used to live near the restaurant, and that J. Gold wrote about it last year. I had assumed it was just a run-of-the-mill farm-to-table restaurant. But the menu reads rather…Southern? Pretty interesting. The shrimp & grits is probably their signature dish, and it is on both the lunch and dinner dineLA menus. Lunch is the preferred choice, as you’re bound to save ~$10 no matter what you choose. This is what dineLA should be all about – letting people try out new places at a friendly entry rate without dumbing the menus down. GREATEST HIT – Lukshon
(Asian, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Fri 12-3pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Crab fritter
– Grilled squid salad
Estimated Savings: $4
Notes: I actually previously featured Lukshon at the $25 dinner price point. But with every one of my previous $20 lunch selections either moving weight classes or not doing dineLA this year (with the exception of The Pikey, but it’s really hard to determine value with their menu), it’s worth bumping the dineLA HOFer here. Two of their regular dishes at $20 is a very good deal. Minor rant though: their dinner menu at $35 looks like a HOLD this time around (for the first time ever – they’re usually a strong BUY).

$25

Bourbon Steak
(Steakhouse, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 11:30am-2:30pm) Optimal Lineup:
– Burrata
– Black Angus skirt steak
– Vanilla custard
Estimated Savings: $20
Notes: 3 courses for $25 at the new steakhouse from Michael Mina looks like a great deal. Even if you choose the cheapest options for the first and second courses, you’re still going to save ~$10. But for a restaurant with “steak” in its name – you’d probably want to choose the steak option as entree. The skirt steak is definitely not as sexy as the higher-quality selections of beef that the restaurant offers, but do you really need more than a prime-grade steak for lunch? Water Grill
(Seafood, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11am- )
Optimal Lineup:
– Roasted beets w/ organic apples
– Wild Copper River sockeye salmon
Estimated Savings: $23
Notes: I believe both locations of Water Grill (Downtown and Santa Monica) are offering the same menus for lunch and dinner. Dinner at $45 is a BUY – ~$20 in savings. But you’re saving just as much during lunch at a much lower price point. The entree options bottom out at $19 (the shrimp banh mi), so you’re guaranteed to save money. If you order either of the fish options as the entree (and why wouldn’t you), it’s a double-digit savings AT LUNCH. The Downtown one’s a block away from my office, so I’m very likely going to this one. GREATEST HIT – Bouchon
(French, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Salade de Chou Frise
– Saucisson a l’Ail
– Bouchons
Estimated Savings: ~$20
Notes: It’s difficult to lock down actual savings at Bouchon each season, but I am fairly certain one can saving at least $10 regardless of the selections every time (mostly because I take the cheapest dish of each category from the regular menu as a price floor). Every one of the previous choices at the $25 price point remains a BUY, too (at least the ones that have posted a menu online).

DINNER:

$25

Komodo (Venice)
(Asian, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun -9pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Trio of Morsels
– Kimchi Nachos
– Mochiko Fried Chicken
– Traditional Mexican Flan
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I’ve always assumed Komodo was a cleaner, more expensive version of Kogi, and after reading the menu I can say that I was right…somewhat. There’s definitely the Asian Fusion thing going on (with the tacos in particular), but the dineLA menu doesn’t include the tacos. Instead, you get to choose from some rather traditional-sounding SE Asian/island dishes. The savings might be even more if you choose the salmon, and I did go conservative on the appetizer trio estimate. As good of a time as ever to try Komodo.

Mohawk Bend
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 4-10pm, Fri-Sat 4-11pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Heirloom tomato salad
– Roasted king salmon
– Peach sorbet
Estimated Savings: ~$10?
Notes: I hate to keep bringing this up season after season, but the $25 dinner dineLA options remain weak in my opinion, especially considering how I’m trying to feature new options. You know how desperate I’m getting when I’m recommending a vegetarian/vegan spot… But Mohawk Bend is indeed a good value at this price point, and you’re more likely going for their excellent beer selection. Makes drinking all them carbs go down a little easier, knowing that you’re eating relatively healthy with the beers. GREATEST HIT – The Corner Door
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 5pm-2am)
Optimal Lineup:
– Pappardelle
– Steamed mussels
– White chocolate snickerdoodles
Estimated Savings: $15
Notes: The Corner Door really has this dineLA thing down. What they’ve managed to do is include the majority of the menu without the restraint of serving them in courses to maximize diner choices (and savings). The choice of two dishes is already a BUY (as long as you’re not choosing two vegetarian dishes), but you get a dessert as well?!? This is a really, really good dineLA deal. Use the savings on their wonderful drinks, or on another dish to share with your crew – it’s a fun place to hang out with friends.

$35

Tipple & Brine
(Seafood, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Wed 5-11pm, Thu-Sat 5pm-12am)
Optimal Lineup:
– Fried octopus
– Market Fish
– Chocolate Cremeaux
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: Tipple & Brine is a new restaurant in Sherman Oaks that focuses on seafood. I’ve read pretty good things about it, and not just pretty good for Sherman Oaks, although you’ll probably want to wait until traffic dies down a bit before heading north for dinner. But the 3 courses at $35 looks like a great value. Feeling guilty about not visiting my mom in the area after dinner though? Not as great of a value. Willie Jane
(Southern, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Thu 6-10pm, Fri-Sat 6-11pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Hanger steak tartar
– Fried chicken thighs with pimento mac
– Willie Jane red velvet cake
Estimated Savings: ~$9?
Notes: I’m glad Willie Jane moved down from the $45 price point, because it was definitely not a good deal then. But it’s now following big brother Post & Beam’s footsteps in becoming a dineLA value fixture. It’s somewhat difficult to lock down actual savings (I averaged the appetizer prices, and I’m not sure if the fried chicken here is the same as the regular one – but it does come with a side as well), but it looks like you can save $4-9 here. Their fried chicken has a really good reputation, and you know how much I love fried chicken. Plus those first courses sound pretty darn good as well. GREATEST HIT – Black Hogg
(America, dineLA menu, website, Tue-Sat 6-10:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Pork belly taco
– Brussels sprout hash
– Marrow burger
– Milk & Honey
Estimated Savings: ~$10
Notes: I was going to go with the clams caribena as the entree choice to maximize savings, but “limited quantities” definitely catches the eye – I’m assuming the marrow burger is a dish created specifically for dineLA. Anyways, the entrees’ price range is $16-18, so you’ll still save $5-10 regardless, depending on the combination of dishes. There are plenty who go to Black Hogg expecting this Animal Part Deux, but it’s just a really nice neighborhood spot serving well-executed dishes that are inspired by multiple influences.

$45

Abigaile
(America, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Sun 5-10pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Pao de queijo
– Roasted medjool dates & kale salad
– Tuna tartare
– Scallops & slab bacon
– Snickers
Estimated Savings: $22
Notes: That Tin Vuong – so hot right now. The chef went from this one Manhattan Beach restaurant to a local empire that now includes the critically-acclaimed Little Sister, Wildcraft Sourdough Pizza, and the new Dia del Campo (the latter also a BUY at the $45 dinner price point). But let’s not forget about the OG here. Just stay away from the cheapest options from the “ruffage” category and the noodle dish from the “carnage” category, and you’re bound to save double-digits. Use those savings on their excellent beer selections. Faith & Flower
(American, dineLA menu, website, Sun-Thu 5:30-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-12am)
Optimal Lineup:
– Summer squash salad
– Longanisa sausage
– Mesquite grilled skirt steak
– Seared steelhead trout
– Peaches & Cream
Estimated Savings: ~$25
Notes: Man this place looks sexy. And the savings at dinner for dineLA look even sexier. I’m fairly certain about the estimated savings here – the dineLA menu items that are not on the regular menu have comparable counterparts on the regular menu. The floor here is probably $5+, but obviously in choosing the two proteins as mains, you’d get the ~$25 savings. The best idea, actually, is to go as a pair to get one of everything on the dineLA menu. You’ll still save $15/person, which you can apply towards drinks or something else off the regular menu (oxtail agnolotti?). GREATEST HIT – Fogo de Chao
(Steakhouse, dineLA menu, website, Mon-Thu 5-10pm, Fri 5-10:30pm, Sat 4:30-10:30pm, Sun 4-9:30pm)
Optimal Lineup:
– Menu the same as regular
Estimated Savings: $16.50
Notes:  Ah, Fogo de Chao – dependable as ever during dineLA. You know exactly what you’re getting, and you know exactly how much you’re saving. Just make sure to make a reservation, and preferably not at peak hours, because it gets PACKED during dineLA (including plenty of UCLA students – I know from personal experience). Luckily, service doesn’t get compromised, and selections remain consistent and plentiful…unless the Brazilians are still too depressed from the World Cup.

So there you have it – 2 new selections at each price point along with an additional “greatest hits” selection, for a total of 18 again this time around. I hope everyone enjoys these next 2 weeks of grubbin’, because I certainly will. And bonus: AMEX brought back the dineLA $5 statement credits! And it’s for each meal you spend > $21 too!

Previous Selections:

LUNCH ($15)

Fundamental LA – BUY (up to $7 in savings)
The Larder at Burton Way – BUY ($11)
MessHall – BUY ($4)
Next Door by Josie – BUY (~$4)
Short Order – ???
TLT Food – BUY ($6)

($20)

The Pikey – HOLD (~$3?)

($25)

AOC – BUY ($6)
Drago Centro – ???
Little Dom’s (up from $20) – HOLD (~$3)
Mo-Chica (also up from $20) – HOLD (~$4)
Paiche – BUY (~$10)
Rivera – ???
Tavern – BUY ($15)

DINNER

($25)

Blue Cow Kitchen & Bar – BUY ($8)
Hostaria del Piccolo – BUY (~$10)
Post & Beam – BUY (~$10)

($35)

Freddy Smalls Bar + Kitchen – HOLD? (???)
The Gorbals – HOLD? (???)
Gusto – ???
Lukshon – HOLD ($2) – surprise here, as they’re usually a strong BUY
Night + Market – BUY if you refuse to go to Sliver Lake, SELL if nothing’s holding you back
Waterloo & City – BUY (~$10)

($45)

The Bazaar – BUY ($22)
Craft – BUY (~$10)
Lawry’s The Prime Rib – BUY ($16)
Lucques – BUY ($15)
Patina (down from $85) – really hard to tell, but you’re getting 5 courses! Has to be a BUY.

dineLA Stock Legend:
BUY: > 20% in savings off optimal lineup
HOLD: 5-20% in savings off optimal lineup
SELL: under 5% in savings off optimal lineup

Tacolandia (2014)

Untitled
Obviously, I ate for free

Tacolandia 2014 @ El Pueblo de Los Angeles
6/28/14 – 3-7pm
125 Paseo De La Plz
Los Angeles, CA 90012
http://microapp.laweekly.com/tacolandia/2014/

I think it’s safe to say that last year’s inaugural Tacolandia was proclaimed a success. For a first-time event that focused on just one dish, albeit one that is synonymous with the city’s culture and identity, things ran very smoothly. Lines (both getting in and per vendor) were manageable, most vendors had plenty to serve from a wide variety of tacos, and the event itself was downright highway robbery for its attendees at $20/person.

This year, prices skyrocketed to the tune of…$25/person. Let’s just say that the even remains a STRONG BUY (although that can be somewhat argued for the premium tickets at $45 a pop in comparison – see The Offalo’s report on the issues regarding that). The event was moved from the parking lot of the Hollywood Paladium to a blocked off section of Olvera Street to accommodate a bigger crowd – no easy feat, as regulations were up the ass left and right (which partially contributed to the drinks issue everyone had). Bill Esparza, one who needs no introduction, told us there were approximately 1000 more attendees this year. No room for walk-up purchases, that’s for sure.

At least with the bigger venue to accommodate more attendees meant more vendors – I believe there were around 40 just for food (which meant that there was no realistic shot of me sampling every taco/tostada this year, though not for a lack of trying). I originally had a gameplan to survey the playing field first via scout run (a la my buffet strategy), but standing in line for 40 minutes to get in, plus the initial shock of seeing the lines at each vendor, had me on tilt.

But after 36 tacos of 30 varieties, I have no more regrets in life. After the event last year, I mentioned that I was 5 pounds heavier and had a hard time breathing. Well, for those who were there to witness, I could barely stand by the end of the day. To be perfectly honest, I should’ve just brought a wheelbarrow, and just had someone push my fat ass around throughout the day. Below are the 25 varieties of tacos/tostada I managed to take a quick photo of before devouring:

Untitled

Amor y Tacos – braised short rib taco

The restaurant from Cerritos executed a braised short rib taco w/ caramelized onions, cotija cheese, pickled radishes, and a raspberry salsa that actually worked pretty well. However, the handmade tortilla really fell short – it was thick and undercooked, resulting in a too-chewy texture. Still, this won’t deter me from trying the restaurant someday.

Untitled

Bistro LQ x C-V-CHE – guinea fowl teriyaki leg taco

A collaboration between a French and Peruvian chef that produced a taco that was neither French or Peruvian, this one had fusion written all over it. Solid taco, but could’ve actually used more seasoning IMO.

Untitled

Carnitas El Momo – sortido taco

I’ve tried an incomplete version of this taco, with carnitas and buche. But the official sortido taco from Carnitas El Momo contains the right amounts of juicy carnitas and fatty pig skin, and by the right amounts I mean plenty of each. Hands down, the current undisputed carnitas champ in town.

Untitled

Chef Katsuji Tanabe – fried clam taco

The chef of MexiKosher offered a definitely-not-kosher taco consisting of fried clams, after running out of fried smelt (surprisingly, more than one restaurant served a fried smelt taco). From what I can tell, the preparations for this fried clam taco was the same as the initial smelt one, and it was…kind of weird. The beets were a bit overwhelming, and the sprinkles were…just weird. Pass. Also, can smelt be kosher?

Untitled

Chef Timothy Hollingsworth – “Cochinita Pibil”

The former Chef de Cuisine of 3-star Michelin restaurant The French Laundry was definitely the most acclaimed chef at the event. He has relocated to LA, and plans to open a more casual concept in Downtown, one that’ll feature more of the Mexican flavors he has fallen in love with. If this taco was a precursor, then the chef is on the right track. This “cochinita pibil” was by far the most delicate version I’ve seen/eaten. Subtle flavor profiles and combinations of texture, and elegant “plating” (w/ tweezers, because of course).

Untitled

Chichen Itza – cochinita pibil

The Yucatan specialist stuck to its guns, and served their trademark cochinita pibil. As excellent as ever. Sorry for the poor(er) photo here.

Untitled

Colonia Taco Lounge – beef cheek taco

By now, every taco enthusiast should be familiar with Ricardo Diaz’s name. He was the chef and co-owner of Guisados, before striking it out on his own with Bizarra Capital (which was part of the festival last year), and now Colonia Taco Lounge. This was a solid taco, but I wished we could’ve seen them flex some muscles here.

Untitled

Coni’Seafood – marlin taco

Same as last year, as good as last year. I really need to try this place.

Untitled

Corazon y Miel – fried smelt taco

I’m a big fan of Corazon y Miel, a restaurant I consider one of the most underrated in LA. The restaurant served a fried smelt taco that had avocado, corn, heirloom tomatoes, and a nice hint of poblano. SOLID.

Untitled

Eggslut – braised/fried Nueske’s bacon taco

My boy Johnny and the Eggslut crew served a taco that was fitting of both the festival and what the restaurant’s all about, and that is breakfast and eggs on the regs. The fried quail egg was a nice touch. Can’t wait see what they do next year.

Untitled

FIG – braised lengua taco

Perfectly-cooked tongue, from a chef that knows his way around meat. This was an elevated version of the tongue taco Guerrilla Tacos served last year, and that one was quite good.

Untitled

Finca Altozano – D#ickhead taco (beef cheek, tongue, pizzle)

I was unfortunately unable to try Chef Javier Plascencia’s offaly-bizarre taco last year, but he managed to shock and awe once again with what they called the “D#ickhead” taco. It was beef cheek, tongue, and pizzle (bull penis) cooked birria-style. The penis tasted like beef tendon – very interesting. And yes, I fully admit to wanting the D that day.

Untitled

Flor del Rio – goat birria taco

Birria specialist Flor del Rio brought back the goat birria taco again this year. As good as last year’s.

Untitled

George’s at the Cove – Los 3 Cochinitas taco (pig tail, crispy ear, cueritos)

Untitled

George’s at the Cove – El Pescado taco (achiote-cured red snapper)

Untitled

George’s at the Cove – La Piña tostada (pineapple, espuma de mezcal)

George’s at the Cove ain’t nothing to fuck with. Sorry for the profanity and the lame Wu-Tang reference, but they came rollin’ deep with their A-Team (including Chef Trey, CdC Jon, and Pastry Chef Lori), and managed to not only serve 3 offerings simultaneously(!!!) that were all highlights of the event, but to serve them up until the very end. Mad respect to the team from the La Jolla restaurant, one that was responsible for the single best meal of my year to date (post still in the works).

Untitled

Guerrilla Tacos – wild porcini mushroom tostada

As fans of Guerrilla Tacos know (and I know there are plenty of you, because all of you are in my way), Chef Wes has a way with vegetables. This porcini-truffle collabo seemed like a can’t-miss, and was indeed good, but I just wanted…a little more. The problem with having set such a high standard for me, I suppose.

Untitled

La Guerrerense – seafood tostada (bacalao, octopus, scallop, sea urchin)

I’ve only tried La Guerrerense twice, both times at Tacolandia, but I can safely say that I LOVE LA GUERRERENSE. I would be willing to be a drug mule for the Mexican cartels in exchange for a regular supply of LG’s food. And crazy thing is, I know that what they serve usually is even better and more expansive than what they offered at the events. Sra. Sabina, te amo.

Untitled

Loteria Grill – fried grasshopper tostada

A surprising offering from the local mini-chain. I thought this were pretty good actually. A few ladies had the look of disgust while I was eating this, but I’m not sure if that’s because I was eating grasshoppers, or because of my face.

Untitled

Mexicali Taco & Co. – lomo al carbon taco

The Mexicali guys always try to mix things up at events, and Tacolandia was no different. I remember Dommy (a Chowhound veteran and Mexican culinary scholar) telling me how legit they were last year with their offering, right down to the wood they were using for the grill. This year’s definitely had the look and taste of a churrasco prep – very good.

Untitled

Petty Cash Taqueria – pork belly carnitas taco

Despite it being a pork belly carnitas taco (pork courtesy of Cook Pigs Ranch), the flavors were very clean. A pleasant surprise.

Untitled

Revolutionario LA Food – chicken tagine taco

I believe Chef Zadi actually had to go all McGyver with chicken from fellow chefs at the event, because he said that he had ran out. I tried Revolutionario LA Food during their pop-up last month, and it was a very playful take on the taco incorporating North African flavors and ingredients. Looking forward to seeing what Chef has up his sleeve in the future.

Untitled

Tacos Kokopelli – Polvora tostada (smoked salmon, chiltepin, chilmole)

Untitled

Tacos Kokopelli – Kraken taco

Tacos Kokopelli came with a trio of offerings this year, two of which focused around smoked salmon, and the other being their famous kraken taco which they served last year.  The kraken one was better than last year’s – don’t think anything changed, but was just executed better this time. And the smoked salmon preparations were even better IMO. Sidenote: are they opening a Chicago branch? If so, why not LA?

Untitled

Tortas Ahogadas Ameca – ahogada taco

A sweet and wonderful family operation, serving a taco version of their famed torta ahogada. Arguably the heartiest taco of the day, and held its own against the sexier, chef-driven ones.

Not Pictured:

- Aqui es Texcoco
– La Flor de Yucatan
– Mariscos Jalisco
– Tacos Kokopelli (Summer Dash tostada)
– Tamales Elena

So yeah, that sums up all the tacos I ate at Tacolandia, sans the ones without photos. I missed out on a few big names, like Taco Maria and Picca, but there’s only so much Chris to go around. That just means I have to go in with a more strict game plan next year. Not counting repeats, below were the six that served my favorites of the day, a true accomplishment given how many good ones I ate throughout the event.

Chris Hei’s All-Tacolandia 1st Team:

FIG
Finca Altozano
George’s at the Cove (2x All-Tacolandia) – MVT
La Guerrerense (2x All-Tacolandia)
Tacos Kokopelli
Chef Timothy Hollingsworth

Thanks again to Bill, LA Weekly, and especially to all the chefs and vendors that made this event possible and a success. Looking forward to next year’s, and many more to come!

Night + Market Song

Untitled

Night + Market Song
3322 W Sunset Blvd
Los AngelesCA 90026
(323) 
849-0223
www.nightmarketsong.com

The 2nd location of Night + Market just opened in late March, and I was there shortly after. While I haven’t been back since (due to work and taking the bus to said work on most days), the fairly close proximity and the ease of parking in Hipster Central are both pluses in my book, as well as what I perceive as bigger portions for a couple of the dishes. The minus? Besides having to be around hipsters, the restaurant is still in a soft-open phase of sorts. That means: no reservations, less seating, slightly smaller menu, no alcohol (not even BYOB), and possible seizures from the psychedelic interior paint job.

But Kris is there every night, and he continues to bring it. Food is as good as ever, and it feels like you’re eating it out of Kris’ apartment. That level of comfort is more than welcome, almost as warm as the heat from that nam kao tod. “Night + Market Song” might mean Night + Market 2, but Night + Market’s song will forever be:

Untitled

Pork Toro ($7)

Untitled

Luu Suk ($10) – pork blood & MSG dipping soup w/ pork crackling, crispy noodles, chile, herbs

Untitled

Larb Lanna – Chiang Rai-Style Pork Larb ($11)

Untitled

Moo Sadoong – Startled Pig ($9)

Untitled

Nam Kao Tod – Crispy Rice Salad ($9)

Grade: normally it’d be too early to determine, but food is as good as ever – so A- holds
Cuisine: Thai
Neighborhood: Silver Lake
Price: $$

Night + Market Song on Urbanspoon

Q Sushi

Q Sushi
521 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 225-6285
qsushila.com

Sushi is so hot right now in LA. Not that it wasn’t before, but nowadays diners have evolved from the mere specialty rolls to the elegant tastings known as omakase, where chefs dazzle with an array of appetizers and nigiri that can easily run bills into triple digits. While this movement has been for the better, it has also dumbed-down the definition and experience of the meaning and value of an omakase in general. Restaurants have been trying to “outdo” one another with excess and gluttony with regards to their “omakase,” not taking into consideration the delicacy and skill involved in preparing and progressing the extended experience without losing a step.

With all of that being said, LA as a city is fortunate to have so many quality high-end sushi options. There’s Kiriko, who can dish out nigiri both classic and modern as well as anyone, all while more than happy to appease the diner next to you who has ordered a California roll. There’s Mori, who walks down a more traditional path and has gotten the rice part of the sushi down to an exact science. There’s Shunji, who now has the most impressive array of quality fishes that can finally hang with Shunji-san’s world-class cooking. And if you’re making seven figures and going to Urasawa on a regular basis, more power to you.

Q Sushi opened to much fanfare last November. Probably not to the general public, but sushi connoisseurs had been keeping a very close eye on the restaurant, and the B-list food media (i.e. Tasting Table, Thrillist) and some bloggers were quick to jump on the bandwagon. Q’s selling point was that it brought over a chef from Japan whose specialty was intimate, carefully-prepared sushi, and that they would be strictly focusing on Edomae-style sushi, at least in the sense that everything would be done the old-fashioned way. That means, among various things, more marinated and cured fishes, because that was how they were kept fresh back in the day. Also, the sushi rice doesn’t contain any sugar, and is served at slightly above room temperature.

Not that I don’t appreciate taking it back old-school, but I do think that the scope of sushi has evolved to a point where we don’t have to be restricted by such confines that were mainly established due to the limitations of the time period. If I were to approach any of the quality sushi restaurants I mentioned above to serve me an omakase where it was kept strictly Edomae, I bet it can be done with ease, because that’s basically Sushi 101 for these masters. So it wasn’t as if Q was bringing something new to the table, because Edomae sushi exists everywhere. And for these very reasons, I wasn’t ready to sip the Q Kool-Aid just yet, especially at a starting price that is pretty much the second most-expensive in town (tied with Mori, and behind Urasawa).

I finally pulled the trigger on dining at Q for two reasons: 1) I recently started working at a new job that is within walking distance of the restaurant (albeit at a firm that rivals the restaurant’s namesake – I’ll leave it at just that), and 2) J. Gold wrote a positive review of the place a few weeks ago, and if I ever wanted to try the place I’d have to do it soon. So there I was recently, dining solo amongst an intimate group of ten at the sushi bar, looking up at all the decorations and wood that showed off the $2 million dollars’ worth of construction and interior design, and eating what was repeatedly said to me was LA’s first true Edomae experience.

If you read up to this far, it does appear that I went into the dinner with some preconceptions of the restaurant, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t true. However, I did keep an open mind, and was, for the most part, rewarded in doing so. There was a tranquil aspect of dining at Q, from the meditation-inducing interior design, to the calm appearance of the sushi bar, to the cool and collected sushi chefs, down to the server speaking in a hushed tone. And while I was never truly off-my-seat thrilled at any point during my dinner, I did appreciate the cohesiveness and pacing of it. In the BBC version of LA’s sushi scene, you can say that Q isn’t Doctor Who or Sherlock, but rather, Downton Abbey.

My 20-course omakase comprised of six appetizers and fourteen pieces of nigiri, to which I added a couple of extras. The chefs were quick and detailed in their description of each course, down to where the seafood was from, an encouraging sign. It’s easy to love true wild bluefin tuna (however controversial it may be) and hard to mess up, but the flight of nigiri I had of it was excellent, and even moreso the seared otoro that was served with a unrefined miso/sansho pepper/chili oil concoction that was like crack (picture a Japanese XO sauce of sorts). And yes, there were various fishes served in kobujime form (kelp-cured, one of the main aspects of Edomae sushi), but the three-day cure was just right, as was the wonderfully-pickled kohada (gizzard shad), proving Q was true to its word in executing the Edomae aspect of the meal with perfection.

Among other highlights, the Saikyo miso (from Kyoto) of the marinated Santa Barbara uni (which I added as a supplement) really brought out the sweetness of both components. And the sake-braised octopus was tender and flavorful, although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the way it was cut. Overall, the pristine seafood was just that, of excellent quality, but the roster of fishes wasn’t anything a seasoned veteran of sushi would be truly impressed or surprised by (it can be said that the roster was kept fairly close to Edomae availability, but not the restaurant’s true intention in my opinion). So while a piece of engawa nigiri isn’t going to blow my mind, I definitely acknowledged the quality of the halibut fin served. And I’m not saying this from a price perspective; my favorite piece of nigiri is iwashi, which is sardine. Despite it being a rather cheap cut, not many places in town serve it, because it really takes a lot of skill and work in preparation.

With all of that being said, I think there’s a certain aspect of Q that should be highlighted – it’s an excellent place for novices of high-end sushi and omakase dining. For those who are trying to get into the game, a meal at Q can be life-changing and educational even. Like I previously mentioned, the chefs are extremely informative and courteous in pointing out the nuances of your dinner, as was my server. Although attending an opera before a rock concert isn’t a prerequisite, going to Q is a great way of easing into high-end sushi before you’re unwillingly exposed to all the weird stuff I’ve come to love, all while taking a walk down memory lane.

I actually don’t have anything truly negative to say about Q, but I will say that the sushi rice wasn’t really my cup of tea, so to speak. The restaurant keeps to tradition in the sense that only red vinegar was used, and the rice was served slightly above room temperature. By now, most in town have actually had experience to warmer sushi rice (due to the Nozawa family of restaurants and their offspring), so that’s not really a shocking thing anymore. And I myself do like my rice along the temperature Q has it, but I did find it on the…dry side. There was a certain “al dente” toothsome texture to it, which kind of highlighted that slight dryness. But it wasn’t bad – just not my thing.

In the end, my preconceptions of Q turned out to be true, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take away the glitz and glamour of the media hype and the price of admission, Q is a great sushi restaurant for beginners of high-end sushi and omakase dining. It’s not the next great sushi bar that will further LA’s claim to the domestic throne of the cuisine, but it’s a good restaurant that doesn’t look out of place in a city full of contenders. I still encourage sushi connoisseurs to take this university course on Edomae sushi, but it’s purely an elective – there are still five or so required sushi courses before Q.

Untitled

Seared Hirame

Kampachi w/ Onion Soy

Kumamoto Oyster w/ Bonito Dashi

Seared Otoro w/ Miso-Sansho-Chili Oil Topping

Okoze w/ Ponzu

Miso Soup w/ Grated Carrots, Sansho & Sake Lees

Suzuki Kobujime

Kurodai

Engawa

Sumi Ika

Akami Zuke

Chutoro

Otoro

Kohada

Shima Aji

Sake

Untitled

Tako

Untitled

Shiro Ebi

Untitled

Anago

Untitled

Tamago

Untitled

Uni Saikyo

Untitled

Aoyagi

Grade: B+
Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi
Neighborhood: Downtown
Price: $$$$+ (~20-course omakase is $165, but there’s a $75 10-course lunch on weekdays)

Q Sushi on Urbanspoon

East Borough (Culver City)

Untitled

East Borough
9810 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 596-8266
culvercity.east-borough.com

East Borough, a Vietnamese restaurant that’s the partnership of a Costa Mesa restaurant of the same name and the team behind Pitfire Pizza/Superba Snack Bar, opened in Downtown Culver City a little over a month ago to much fanfare. Patrons raved about their lunch offerings of elevated versions of banh mi, bun, com, and other casual traditional Vietnamese dishes, as well as about their dinner offerings of a modern take on the cuisine with creative small plates and progressive large format dishes.

My coworkers and I went for lunch during their first week of opening, and were quite impressed. I ordered the pho baguette, which is basically a bowl of pho in banh mi form.  They don’t serve pho, but this proved to capture all the flavors and ingredients of what you’d find in the soup noodle: beef brisket w/ basil, bean sprouts, and chili (all the contents of a regular bowl of pho), topped w/ a clever sriracha hoison aioli, and served with an even more clever bowl of concentrated pho broth to be used as a dip for the sandwich – think banh mi French dip. A fairly straightforward translation, yes, but it does accurately capture the essence of pho. My coworkers seemed to enjoy their pork belly & egg rice bowl and tofu vermicelli noodles, respectively.

There is one issue most people will have with the restaurant (besides the difficulty of finding parking in Downtown Culver City): the prices. The appetizers are $6-8 (2 pieces of spring roll are $6) and entrees are $12-15 (including the banh mi – the pho baguette was $13). So yeah, not cheap at all. They do use high-quality ingredients, and portions are on the larger side, but that won’t make the prices easier to swallow for most. Some people, including coworker Han, refuse to pay this much for a sandwich that costs $2 in SGV/Little Saigon. It also doesn’t help that their Costa Mesa location, however more fast-casual, has basically the same menu at $3 less per dish. Dinner, which I have yet to try, is also on the higher side ($$$ price range), but at least the direction of the menu reflects that.

For now, East Borough is a great lunch option that isn’t necessarily priced as such. I definitely will be back (I’m especially looking forward to dinner), but during work hours it might have to be on someone else’s dime. Still, it’s by far the best of the Vietnamese offerings on the west side of town (over Nong La and Phorage), and certainly the most progressive-thinking. And they certainly know that they’re hot shit – rightfully so.

Untitled

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Vietnamese Culver City $$$ N/A

East Borough on Urbanspoon

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 239 other followers