Gushi

Combo plate

I do not know a single UCLA student, current or former, that did not have Gushi in his or her dining out rotation while living in Westwood, and who didn’t consider it a gift from the God(s). Basically a shack operating on the side of Tomodachi Sushi just off the corner of Gayley and Weyburn, it’s common to find the place full of eager, cheap students filling up on what I consider a bastardized Korean/Japanese fast food. I finally tried the place after basketball for the first time since my last quarter at UCLA a few weeks ago, and it is filling indeed. I remember my fat ass able to put away one of these combo plates with ease back in the day, but on this day, man did I struggle. Generous portions aside, the beef/chicken at Gushi is basically what you’d find at Asian BBQs in someone’s backyard, overcooked and drenched with plenty of sauce, which for some reason is never enough for the young, carnivorous diners. And you know what? It’s still not bad, despite my developing palate. Sometimes you just can’t escape your starving college student past.

Chris Hei grade: B-

Gushi
978 Gayley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 208-4038

Gushi on Urbanspoon

Mongols

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This is me attempting to throw an eephus pitch past my readers…

Came here a few times when I was at UCLA. Mongolian BBQ was quite the hit those days for a starving student. “All-you-can-eat” (in quotes because you can’t technically go back and reload) meats/veggies/noodles for < $10? Sounds like a plan, no? But young Chris Hei has grown up so much since then. Now all I see are frozen sub-all-you-can-eat-hot-pot-quality meats and veggies with plenty of noodle filler for $9 or so. Very filling actually, but not so impressed anymore.

Chris Hei grade: C

Mongols
1064 Gayley Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 824-3377

Mongols on Urbanspoon

800 Degrees

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Lazy post time! Well, not really. But I didn’t actually go to 800 Degrees, so I don’t really have as much to say about the place than an usual post. Eugenia and Linh-Nam were nice enough to bring back some pizzas from the new casual Neapolitan pizzeria in Westwood, from the guy who’s infecting the rest of the U.S. with Umami Burger. She had it the week earlier, and liked it enough to make a return trip.

I have to say, a Neapolitan pizza for as little as $6 is freakin’ amazing. You have places like Mozza that charge around $20 for one, and 800 Degrees dares to do it for under $10? Realistically, you’re going to spend around $10 for a pie, because you’re going to want some toppings. And 800 does have a wide variety of them, in seemingly decent quality. All of this makes the pizzas here great values (if you can bear the lines – although I heard they move very quickly). Really, $10 for this type of pizza is pretty damn impressive.

But how’s the pizza? I mean, if the sauce and (more importantly) the crust is bad, what’s the point? I requested the tartufo pizza, one of the per-assembled combinations they have on the menu. The bianca pie (white pie, no sauce) was very aromatic, due to the truffle oil. I’m not too big of a truffle oil advocate, since it’s chemically created, but the moderate use here worked pretty well. The sauce on the margherita was solid – not too sweet or salty. The crust didn’t really have much of a char. The dough still looked relatively white upon consumption. Also, the consistency was in between chewy and crunchy. A bit of an identity issue, but wasn’t bad.

Overall, the pizzas at 800 Degrees were good, but nowhere near the best Neapolitan pizzas in L.A. My current hierarchy is probably like this: Pizzeria Mozza > Stella Rossa >> Milo & Olive > Sotto > 800 Degrees. But what 800 Degrees does that no one else can do is bring Neapolitan to the masses. And I do appreciate it. Not going to go out of my way for these pies, but if I’m in Westwood, there’s nowhere else (besides In-N-Out) I’d rather be.

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Tartufo ($11) – truffle cheese, roasted mushrooms, caramelized garlic, arugula

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Margherita + Prosciutto + Broccolini ($6 + 3 + 1)

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Margherita + Anchovies + Prosciutto ($6 + 1 + 3)

Chris Hei grade: B

800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria
10889 Lindbrook Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(424) 239-5010

800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Fundamental LA

Photo credit: LA Weekly

I was jogging one night earlier this month (that’s right, I was actually jogging) and wondered to myself what to eat for dinner. Having read about Fundamental LA during that week, I decided to jog a little further east and order some sandwiches to-go. Nothing exactly jumped out at me as being must-haves when I glanced at the menu, so I asked for recommendations. They said that the chicken torta is their most popular item, and the one sandwich that’s always on the menu (they change most of the sandwich selections on a regular basis). I decided to be a fatass and ordered one more sandwich in addition to the chicken torta, which ended up being the breakfast sando.

The chicken torta was very good, but it wasn’t necessarily out-of-this-world good. It was much spicier than I expected, though I enjoyed the heat. I have to say though, that the chicken itself was cooked perfectly, even emulating pulled pork in terms of texture and juiciness. The breakfast sando, however, wasn’t as good. The sandwich as a whole was pretty good, but I thought that the biscuit was way too heavy and dense. Overall, I thought that the sandwiches were good, but not great. Then came the second visit…

Vanilla Cream Soda

Vanilla Cream Soda ($3)

Breakfast Sando

Breakfast Sando ($9) – pork sausage, swiss, fried egg, frisée, roasted garlic aioli, buttermilk biscuit

Chicken Torta

Chicken Torta ($9) – tomatillo salsa, lettuce, cotija, crema, pickled jalapeño, guac, bolillo bread

2nd visit:

So my coworker Nino read about the place in a magazine, and wanted to try the place at lunch a couple of Fridays ago. I had some reservations about joining at first, but I went on the website and saw that they were featuring two new sandwiches: the leg of lamb and the porchetta. I was drooling when I read that, and knew I had to join Nino. I ended up persuading Han and Mike, two other coworkers, into joining us. The fatass in me took over again, and I ordered the leg of lamb to eat there, and the porchetta to-go (which I ate at work around 4pm).

These two sandwiches were a step above the two I tried on my first visit. The lamb was wonderfully cooked, slightly fatty with a hint of gaminess which I enjoyed. The mushroom and the brussels sprouts were nice complements. The porchetta, which I had later, was great as well. While people might think that the porchetta would be my favorite, given that it’s essentially pork belly, I have to give a slight edge to the lamb. I just think that the lamb was a excellently sandwich all-around, while the mustard and sauerkraut in the porchetta was a little overpowering for my taste. Still a pretty awesome sandwich, though.

Housemade Chips

Housemade Chips ($2) – salt and pepper

Leg of Lamb

Leg of Lamb ($12) – celery root purée, king trumpet mushrooms, fried Brussels sprouts, brioche

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Porchetta

Porchetta ($11) – whole-grained mustard, sauerkraut, brioche

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3rd visit:

Went again for the third time last week with Ben after basketball. I got the brisket, which was a solid sandwich. Ben got the chicken torta, which he seemed to enjoy. We also got an order of the churros, which were pretty damn good. After these three visits, I think it’s safe to say that Fundamental LA is one of my go-to choices for a quick bite in the area. Definitely get the leg of lamb or porchetta when they’re on the menu, but you really can’t go wrong with any of their choices. I look forward to trying more of their sandwiches in the future.

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Pulled Brisket ($10) – sriracha BBQ sauce, apple/jalapeno slaw, brioche

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Churros with Butterscotch ($4)

Chris Hei grade: B+

Fundamental LA
1303 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 444-7581

Fundamental on Urbanspoon

Attari Sandwich Shop

The strip on Westwood Blvd. between Wilshire and Santa Monica is essentially the Middle East haven of Los Angeles. In this small area lay dozens of restaurants (like Sunnin, which I just wrote about), cafes, markets, stores, and Persian ice cream shops. But the gem of the neighborhood has to be Attari, a tiny sandwich shop hidden beyond a courtyard, the entrance of which is not visible on Westwood. I’ve see the place in the past during my college years, but it never crossed my mind to actually visit the place until it made its re-entry on Jonathan Gold’s 99 Essential LA Restaurants list a couple of weeks ago.

I decided to walk to Attari from my apartment for take-out, since I was by myself and wanted some exercise (it’s like 1.5 miles away). LA Weekly is doing their 30 Sandwiches in 30 Days this month, and featured a couple of the sandwiches from the restaurants, as well as the osh. Osh is a green lentil soup that is topped with some yogurt and sauteed onions. I ordered it on the recommendation of the restaurant. It doesn’t sound appealing, and certainly doesn’t look appealing, but it definitely hits the spot on a cold night. And it goes very well with some freshly baked French bread that comes on the side.

Speaking of the bread, it’s the vessel for each variety of their sandwiches. And man, is it great. Crispy exterior, chewy interior. Very reminiscent of the same type of bread that is used for banh mi.  On my first visit I had to get the beef tongue sandwich. The tongue was cooked so well it practically melted in your mouth, and well perfectly with the accompanying lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. Nothing sexy, just simple and well-executed. On my second visit I ordered the chicken kotlet sandwich. Looked and tasted like a cross between a falafel and a potato croquette. Pretty good, but kind of dry without some type of wet saucy contrast.

Overall, they were some very good sandwiches. The beef tongue was just absolutely amazing. The osh was good, too. The fact that I went there twice in a span of three days speaks volumes of how I feel about the place. On my two visits, they weren’t very busy, and I had hoped that more people would know about this hidden little gem. However, I tried to go there for lunch yesterday with Linh-Nam and Paul, and the place was packed, out beyond the courtyard. So it looks like my worries were unwarranted.

Osh

Osh ($4.95)

Tongue Sandwich

Tongue Sandwich ($7.99)

Chicken Kotlet Sandwich

Chicken Kotlet Sandwich ($6.75)

Chris Hei grade: B+

Attari Sandwich Shop
1388 Westwood Blvd
West Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 441-5488

Attari Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunnin Lebanese Cafe

Photo credit: Life as a feast

This is going to be a fairly lazy post, since I’m backed up by at least ten posts, and I’ve been very busy at work over the last month. On the Saturday before Halloween, a group of us decided to go out for dinner before all but myself headed to a Halloween party hosted by a couple of our friends (a party which I was later coerced to attend briefly). Wanting something nearby, Eugenia and I overlapped our to-dine lists, and Sunnin was the closest restaurant that was on both of our lists.

As its name suggests, Sunnin serves Lebanese food. If you’re not familiar with what Lebanese food is, it’s actually not very different from your typical Middle Eastern cuisine. In fact, it’s very much so. You got your kabobs, shish-kabobs, and plenty of hummus. On the council of her dining buddy Yelp, Eugenia ordered the fried cauliflower appetizer. Each of the five of us ordered a different entree (all pictured below). All of the entrees were pretty good, but all of them also tasted pretty similar to one another. And it’s tough for any of the individual dishes to stand out when they all tasted a little one-note.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s any better than the other Middle Eastern restaurants in the vicinity that I’ve tried (Flame, Zankou). Still pretty good though, but I’d rather just go get an awesome sandwich at Attari a few blocks up (post forthcoming). And a side note: the service was pretty good in general (a little slow, but they were pretty busy – no problems there), but they tacked on a 18% gratuity fee for the five of us on the bill. I could care less about the 18% (I usually tip more anyways), but the fact that they did it for a group of five is a little…interesting. Like they thought we were a group of kids who don’t tip or something.

Fried Cauliflower – deep fried Cauliflower served with tahini sauce

Chicken Kefta Kebab – finely ground chicken seasoned with a blend of herbs and spices, grilled on a skewer served with rice, hommos, Lebanese salad and pita bread

Chicken Shawarma – marinated layers of chicken cooked on a vertical broiler, served with rice, Lebanese salad, tahini sauce and pita bread

Beef Kebab – tender beef cubes grilled on a skewer served with hommos, rice, Lebanese salad and pita bread

Lamb Kebab – cubes of lamb grilled on a skewer served with hommos, rice, Lebanese salad and pita bread

Shish Tawook (Chicken Kebab) – cubes of chicken breast marinated with garlic grilled on a skewer served with rice, Lebanese salad, garlic sauce and pita bread

Chris Hei grade: B-

Sunnin Lebanese Cafe
1776 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 475-3358

Sunnin Lebanese Café on Urbanspoon

Fatburger

In our efforts to try something different after playing basketball, Ben suggested Fatburger, since he remembered passing by it near my apartment and had wanted to go back after a long absence, and I shared his sentiments. I remembered that there was one in Westwood, and since we were at Veteran Park we decided to go there since it’s the closest location. Fatburger, for a while, was seen as the rival to In-N-Out in Southern California for a while (before being dominated, of course). And I used to go there quite often when I was in high school, since there was one near my house. In recent years, it’s been kicked to the back of the burger bus, being overshadowed by all the gourmet burger joints and restaurants that have popped up (and not to mention In-N-Out’s increased stranglehold on the region and beyond).

I’ve been to this Fatburger in Westwood a few times, but quite frankly it barely crossed my mind during my years at UCLA, since it’s not exactly in the heart of Westwood Village, and…there was an In-N-Out. Ben said that he has never been here. He got a fatburger (1/3 lb. patty) with onion rings and I got a kingburger (1/2 lb.) with skinny fries. The patties are hand-formed and cooked medium, and the burger comes with the works – mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, relish, and onions. I actually thought that the burger was cooked better than the one I had at Hole in the Wall a week before, and wasn’t too far off from the masterpieces I’ve had at In-N-Out. Maybe it’s time I incorporated an occasional trip to Fatburger between my constant visits to the I word.

Chris Hei grade: B

Fatburger
10955 Kinross Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 208-4300

Note: credit teamperks on Flickr for the first photo.

7/5/11 update: After reviewing Father’s Office and giving it a B+ (along with my forthcoming review of Umami Burger), I felt that I could’t keep Fatburger at a B+ (and I couldn’t justify giving the other two places an A-), so I have to retroactively grade Fatburger a B.