A.O.C. – Still one of my Favorites

by Franklin on August 23, 2015

A.O.C. continues to be my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles. The food price is right around my budget, new space is larger and has so much character. Suzanne Goin is a legend in LA, and A.O.C. stands on its own. I still remember the day I went to their first location. The food was still memorable, and left me wanting more from the city. Here is the link to the older A.O.C., and back when I was starting this food blog.

The farmer’s plate was so vibrant and hearty. It is exactly what I imagine a farmer would eat. Whatever there was plenty of, grill it, pair it with some nice bread and call it a meal. The summer vegetables included squash and eggplant. the chicpea puree, muhammara, burrata, and grilled toast gave the dish the added flavor and vibrance. I am a meat-eater at heart, but this vegetable plate made me a vegetable lover.

Another healthy and flavorful dish was the grilled peaches, ricotta, and pistachio aillade. The ricotta and grilled peaches were so good together. Adding the pistachios and greens just gave it a nice balance of crunch and bitterness. This was my favorite of the night.

The arroz negro is a classic here and I always get this dish. The squid was cooked so perfectly tender and the saffron aioli rounds out the whole dish perfectly. The green onion gives a nice balance to the rich squid ink and rice.

The halibut dish was spectacular. Paired with tomato, dungeness crab, and horseradish creme fraiche, everything was creamy and fresh. Seafood done simply is all that is required. The acidity from the tomatoes gave the dish a nice bite and contrast from the buttery fish and sea salty crab.

The location is so perfect and steps upon steps better than their last location down the street. The outdoor seating is some of the best in Los Angeles, and the Spanish architecture is prevalent throughout the restaurant. The food is always consistently perfect here and I always come back. I hate going to the same restaurants over and over, but at A.O.C., I don’t mind it much.

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2015 LA Street Food Fest

by Franklin on July 23, 2015

It was my first time covering the LA Street Food Fest, and I gatta say, it was a pretty awesome food festival. Being held at the Rose Bowl, it gave me a chance to literally go around the perimeter and try all of the food samples. Never having been at a football game or on a football field, it was kind of awe-inspiring to stand on the field.

The food selection was really great. The cool thing about the LA Street Food Fest is that the food was really down to earth and simple. Donuts, poke, ice cream, and burgers were some of the samples that vendors had. Some of the stellar items were from Bachi Burger, with their short rib and kimchi burgers. One of my top picks for the event was Free Range’s chicken sandwich. I was quite impressed with Colorado Donut’s display and donut selection. They killed it with all of their specialty donuts and flavors.

The event in all was a success and was glad to have been part of it! I heard in past years, the crowds were unbearable. It looks like the crew at LA Street Food Fest worked out the kinks and made it even better this year. The Rose Bowl is a perfect venue for this kind of thing. The ring shape lets vendors spread out and hungry eaters can eat and drink as the go around the bowl. You can even go on the field and enjoy some food and drinks picnic style.

I can’t wait for next year’s LA Street Food Fest!

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Tacolandia 2015

by Franklin on June 14, 2015


If any city is going to have a taco festival, Los Angeles is going to do it. If any person is going to spearhead this task, it would only be Bill Esparza. This was my first time attending the taco themed food festival, and I was in awe of all the different kinds of tacos everyone presented. The 4,500+ participants got to try food from over 80 vendors.

The Venue:
The event took place at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, just next door to the historic Olvera Street. This was the perfect venue for this type of event. Closing off the streets for the masses of people, everyone had a chance to bounce from station to station. The lines moved quickly to enter the event. Being out in the sun in the middle of the street is the only way to eat tacos.

The Food:
I think we ended up eating about 12 – 15 different kinds of tacos. Some of the stellar and interesting tacos came outside of Los Angeles. I was surprised to see some vendors coming from Mexico and Baja California. The seafood tostada from La Guerrerense from Ensenada was quite memorable. Bar Ama’s pork belly taco and nacho chili cheese sauce was stellar. The most interesting taco has to go to Corazon de Tierra’s duck pate taco. I was sad to have missed Kraken Taco’s grilled octopus taco. As a matter of fact, I was looking for any of the various octopus/squid tacos, but all were gone. Food ran out quickly, and I think that would have been one of the best of the bunch.

The Good:
Other than the delicious tacos, participants were able to drink and over-drink Jarritos! Tacos and Jarritos is just a perfect combination. The venue was perfect. It brought the historic Los Angeles essence into the whole event. Another good is that the lines moved quickly to get into the venue.

The Bad:
Though the lines to get into the venue was relatively quick. Some lines to the actual food was quite unbearable. This was usually caused by food not being prepped fast enough, or fans taking pictures with Danny Trejo :) I know these vendors are producing some quality tacos, so the lines are understood. Though the event was supposed to last until 8PM, most of the vendors ran out of food by 5PM. Respect to the vendors who were still serving food until the end!

On a side note, food events such as these need to serve water. Eating tacos by the dozen and being out in the hot sun, you sometimes just need ice cold water. Jarritos is great, but you can’t beat ice cold water when you are parched.

The End:
This was my first Tacolandia event, so I don’t have past events to compare it to. As far a Los Angeles food events go, it went quite well. The food was quite diverse and the quality was exceptional. Tacolandia 2015 was fun and memorable. I can’t wait for next year’s event!

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Remember when Mexicali Tacos used to be on 1st and Beaudry in downtown? Those were the good ol’ days. Things have definitely changed, for the better. Their permanent location on Figueroa is kind of at a hidden spot, and the parking sucks, but the flavors of 1st and Beaudry are still there.

The catchetada is my go to item. With each bite, you get the crisp and crunch, the juicy meat, the melted cheese, and the smokey chipotle aioli. It is all flavor and no messing around. I usually get it with an egg on top, but uhh, cash was an issue. The vampiro quesadilla was all flavor as well. That garlic sauce they put in there is addicting and hits the spot every time. The al pastor taco is leaner than most other spots, but the addition of the sauces gave it a nice flavor. The green is my favorite as it is surprisingly spicy.

Mexicali Tacos remains one of my favorite Mexican spots in LA. The thing is, when they were on the corner, they used to have this charm. Eating al fresco in the LA night, the tacos were more delicious then — parking was definitely easier. Now as the years have gone by, newer and better taco joints are popping up. Mexicali, which was once hot and new is now a classic. It is funny how time flies.

Mexicali Taco & Co on Urbanspoon

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Scoops – A Little Brown Bread and Some Sugar

by Franklin on April 10, 2015

Scoops really started it all. I’m obviously not saying they were the first ice cream shop around, but they were around before or during the whole gourmet flavors stage in LA. It’s hot. It’s summer. Why not treat yourself to some Brown Bread Ice Cream?

The ice cream shop isn’t really fancy. This somewhat hole in the wall joint just focuses on one thing — ice cream. Their unique, but now somewhat common flavors keep this place afloat. At only 3 bucks for a heaping scoop of ice cream, the delicious flavors keep attracting old and new customers. What did I get? I always get their brown bread — just regular ice cream with bits of waffle cone inside. I also had the sweet potato burnt sugar. Those two would be my favorite together.

Their ice cream is a little soft and melts easily, but I was done in less that 2 minutes. Three bucks well spent, I’d say.

Scoops on Urbanspoon

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Hula Dog – Stuffed Bun Hot Dog from Hawaii

by Franklin on March 26, 2015

Oh, I miss Hawaii. The soft ocean breeze, the relaxed attitude, and beautiful coastal scenery — I love it all. When I saw Hula Dog at Newport Beach, I was instantly intrigued. They sell Hawaiian style hot dogs, lemonade, and shaved ice. I came in for a quick snack and drink. They basically get their in house made bread rolls, and the cool part is, they stick it inside a hot rod which heats up the bun from within, and create a hole for the hot dog to be inserted. Their topping and sauces range from fruit relishes from the island.

I ordered the bacon taro bread with polish sausage, topped with their secret garlic sauce and guava relish. From what I expected and what I actually got was very different. I was expecting a warm, chewy, doughy bread with hints of bacon and taro. The bread was very stale and pretty much broke. It had little flavor, and definitely no bacon or taro flavor. The sauces didn’t really help moisten everything. The hot dog sausage itself was very good. It have a nice beefy flavor and a good snap. It was juicy, and no too salty.

The lemonade was quite refreshing. Freshly squeezing the lemons really made a difference. It wasn’t too sweet, it wasn’t too sour or tart. It was just a refreshing, cold cup of lemonade. Perfect, actually.

Hula Dog was somewhat of a letdown. If it were exactly what I had imagined, it would have been quite spectacular. Imagine that perfect hot dog sausage wrapped in a nice chewy bun, filled with a tropical fruit relish — now that would be awesome. It was a good thing to wash down everything with the lemonade. They seem to be a popular thing in Hawaii, but maybe lost something when it made its way over here. Nonetheless, you still have the beach to enjoy, and I guess a hot dog and a lemonade at the beach isn’t too bad.

Hula Dog on Urbanspoon

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Newcomb’s Ranch – Canyon Ride and Pancakes

by Franklin on March 22, 2015

The roads are clear, and the roads up Angeles Forest are asking for some action. One morning, some buddies and I decided to take our cars up the mountain caravan style. With some spirited driving, we made it to Newcomb’s Ranch, a biker and car enthusiasts stop up the mountain. Most stop by to have breakfast, chit chat about their bikes and go along their way. It was great to see this community and enjoy breakfast while at it. The food wasn’t really great, but the pancake was memorable.

The sloppy mess was just that, a sloppy mess. The chili and beans on top of the eggs was a mess, and some rice would have been perfect. The hash browns were not something I enjoyed. It was basically just cooked shaved potatoes.

My eggs were cooked nicely, and the bacon was a good match. Bacon and eggs is always a sure thing — only of the hash browns were good. No crisp, no buttered bits of goodness — they were just kind of there on the plate. Masked in ketchup and hot sauce, I made the most of it.

The pancakes really saved this breakfast. After enjoying my eggs and bacon, I always like to treat myself to pancakes. Theirs was surprisingly fluffy and had the perfect attributes of a good pancake. It was light, tasty, and absorbed the syrup just right. It was great with their coffee.

I know the breakfast was a bit boring, but the pancakes were quite memorable. We really don’t drive up the mountain for some of the best breakfast around, but the experience was great. Getting away from the city and enjoying the drive up the beautiful mountain was a treat in it of itself.

Newcomb's Ranch on Urbanspoon

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LA Weekly’s The Essentials

by Franklin on March 16, 2015

The LA Weekly’s The Essentials event was a first time for me. I love going to food events because you can try a number of things from many different chefs and restaurants. The Essentials was held at California Market Center in downtown LA. More than 40 restaurants participated and fed the masses of people. When I say masses of people, these are a lot of people. The lines were a bit insane — I think we waited almost an hour until food touched our lips. Once we got up to the main floor, it was all smooth from there.

My favorites were Coni’Seafood‘s shrimp, octopus, scallop ceviche and Providence/Connie & Ted‘s raw oysters. The creative award goes to Saint Martha‘s for their uni tataki on seaweed “Doritos”. Mélisse‘s wagyu beef béarnaise was memorable. Spago‘s pork belly bánh mì was quite delicious. The pork belly was melt in your mouth wonderful. Curtis Stone plated some white asparagus pain perdu w/foie gras mousse form his restaurant in Beverly Hills, Maude. Also the blue crab rolls from Kiriko was memorable.

The event was filled with food and drinks. After waiting in line for some time, the reward was quite worth it. Can’t wait for next year!

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Senor G has everything you want in a Mexican joint. It had some good chips and salsa, a huge burrito with fresh ingredients, and is right next to the beach. Located in Playa del Rey, the location is quite nice and the small space was perfect.

The tortilla chips and salsa was awesome. The chips were ok, but the salsa was spectacular. It was as if they just made it right then and there. The tomatoes were fresh and the flavor was just right. Something about the salsa was just so addicting.

I ordered the Carlito’s Way burrito with beans on the side. It had chopped skirt steak, grilled onion, cheese, guacamole, and rice. The skirt steak was prepared fresh on the flat top grill. Each bite was meaty and hearty. The guacamole was fresh too, probably made not too long ago. The burrito had great taste and flavor, but had one minor (huge) problem. After 2 bites, the burrito fell apart. One huge pet peeve of mine is a burrito that can’t stay together. Even the largest, most packed burrito should stay together if wrapped correctly.

Senor G was a nice pit stop before the beach. The spot is nice and the salsa was really memorable. Every ingredient is fresh and is given so much attention. I didn’t get a chance to try a smoothie at G’s Juice next door, but will definitely have to come back for some.

Senor G's on Urbanspoon

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Smashburger – A Classic is a Classic

by Franklin on March 7, 2015

The first time I had a Smashburger was in La Jolla at La Jolla Cove Beach. This was year back, before any locations made its way near Los Angeles and Orange County. It was delicious then, and it is delicious now. The fast casual experience from a burger joint was new and exciting. The fresh ingredients and

Everything about the Classic Smash burger was, for a lack of better words, classic. The tomato, lettuce, and pickles were so fresh. The beef was of great quality and every ingredient was tasty. Of course, I had to go classic and have American cheese on there. The best part was the potato bun — it was fluffy, chewy, dense and flavorful. It was so moist and conforming to every bite. The bread, cheese, and beef alone would have made a great burger. The addition of the tasty Smash sauce was great.

Every great burger needs french fries. Fortunately, Smashburger fries are legit. Their shoestring (my favorite kind) were perfectly salted and seasoned. The texture was so crispy and satisfyingly crunchy. It did have a slight taste of frozen potatoes, but the fries were still delicious. I think even a little more time in the fryer would have made for even crispier fries.

Smashburger was just as good as I remember, maybe even better than I remember. The fresh ingredients, the fast casual atmosphere, and good service is all I need in a burger joint. The patty was memorable, and the bun was even better. Smashburger is a smash hit in my book. They are huge in the East and Mid-West, and I’m glad their here in LA and OC.

Smashburger on Urbanspoon

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Hambone’s – That BBQ Got Me

by Franklin on February 24, 2015

Good southern barbecue is hard to come by. Either the sauce isn’t right, the meat is dry, or the sides just don’t cut it. Stumbling upon Hambone’s in Bellflower, I was onto something delicious here. The look was right and the smell was intoxicating. This is that soul food — this stuff sticks to your ribs and stays with you. The food was indeed memorable, and we all know this stuff stuck to my ribs among other parts of my body. Barbecue is a beautiful thing and Hambone’s does it right.

Ordering the rib tips and fries, I knew not having any greens or veggies were going to kill me. It didn’t matter as the rib tips were succulent — it had the right amount of tender meat and flavorful bark. The plate came with more than I thought, and the pieces were perfectly sized. The fries were dusted with seasoning salt which I liked. Call me unconventional (or a typical Asian), but a side of rice with these rib tips would have been quite nice. Just saying.

The tri tip sandwich to me was good, but not great. The meat was a bit on the dry side, but was aided with their spicy sauce. I saw everyone ask for some spicy sauce, and I naturally ordered some as well. That stuff was addicting — spicy with the right kind of kick and all the goodness of barbecue. That saved this somewhat bland sandwich. The mac and cheese though was on point. Cheesy and greasy as it should be, the noodles were perfectly coated in the cheese sauce.

My visit to Hambone’s was quite pleasant. The price for everything wasn’t too much. I was quite surprised at the price actually. At this calibur of barbecue and with these affordable prices, I will surely be back.

Hambones BBQ and Po'Boy Sandwhiches on Urbanspoon

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EMC Seafood – Oyster and All for Happy Hour

by Franklin on February 20, 2015

EMC Seafood seems like a fish out of water in K-Town, pun intended. With a clean cut interior and a fresh menu of seafood offerings, there is no smidgen of K-Town funk. Don’t get me wrong — as a Korean with a love/hate relationship with Koreatown, restaurants in this part of town seem to replicate each other. You have your typical Korean bar/restaurants, numerous BBQ spots, and everything in between. EMC seafood is refreshing and a beam of light for future things to come.

We started things off with a dozen oysters. At a dollar a pop during happy hour, I don’t know why I didn’t get more. The oysters were plump, juicy, and fresh. Topping them with the various sauces, or having them raw, oysters are always enjoyable. No, seriously though. Why didn’t I order more?

The soft shell crab sliders were pretty ok, not the best. I felt the bread somehow overpowered everything. I know from the looks of it, the crab is hanging out from the sides of the bread. For some reason, the soft shell crab lacked flavor. Maybe salting it more or spicing up the batter would have helped a bit. It really didn’t stand out and was the most underwhelming dish of the night.

The lobster roll was quite delicious. The lobster was plenty but didn’t seem cooked recently. Lobster is usually a bit firm, succulent, and has a nice bite to it. The lobster here was a bit flaccid and somewhat flavorless. Maybe it was the lack of mayo. It just needed something extra. Even the crispness of a lime or lemon would have done wonders. I would probably stay away from the lobster roll next time.

The uni pasdta is a favorite of mine. Though the pasta sauce was a bit watery and the uni flavor was not prominent. Still though, uni pasta is uni pasta, and uni is delicious. The spaghetti was cooked nicely al dente, and nice big sliver of uni was great. I think honing down the sauce and making it more robust would do wonders for this dish.

For Koreatown though, EMC is a great spot for seafood. The flavors and ingredients are fresh and it is one of the premiere spots in Koreatown that isn’t your typical “K-Town” flair.

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

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Best Fish Taco in Ensenada – Baja Style

by Franklin on February 17, 2015

It is Tuesday! That, for me means tacos! What is not to love about a taco? When you have the perfect tortilla, the perfect fillings of meat, veggies and sauce, it is so delicious. Fish tacos are hard to come by. It’s easy to get a carne asada taco right, but to get a good fish taco, everything needs to be balanced. The batter needs to be light, and the fish, fresh. It goes without saying the tortilla and sauces need to be equally perfect. If one thing is off, the whole thing can be ruined. At Best Fish Taco in Ensenada (yes, that is the name of the restaurant), the bold statement of the name really holds true. In short, their fish tacos are delicious!

I liked the fish came straight out of the fryer. They give you just the tortilla and fish, and you dress it the way you like. From regular salsa to specialties like mango, pineapple, avocado guac salsa, the toppings are plenty. Putting the amount of salsa and crema I like, it made for the perfect fish taco just the way I like. The fish was fresh and tender, and the batter was just right. The shrimp taco was good too, but I favored the fish more.

To name your restaurant as being “the best” is a bold statement. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that these are the best fish tacos in LA, but they are quite delicious. The plan is simple. Make the fish fresh and let the customer top it off however they like. Their prices are low, and quality is high. With these simple ingredients, it is no wonder why it’s so tasty.

Best Fish Taco in Ensenada on Urbanspoon

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Eggslut – Quick Lunch, Long Line

by Franklin on February 10, 2015

Call someone a slut, and you are asking for trouble. Take someone to Eggslut, and you are just the best friend ever. I remember having Jury Duty (the worst) and we were on our lunch break — I headed straight to the Grand Central Market. It is great to see Downtown flourish and the revival of the Grand Central Market a couple years back is a true testament to that. I knew I had to give Eggslut a try. I think the name itself is just intriguing enough. This is a long overdue post so don’t hate me if the details are a bit foggy.

I ordered the Fairfax with bacon. The soft scrambled eggs were so delicate and smooth and the addition of the chives made it extra special. The cheddar cheese melted nicely and mixed in with the caramelized onions and sriracha mayo. I am glad I added the bacon as it gave the sandwich extra saltiness and flavor. The warm Portuguese bun was the perfect bread to hold everything together.

The Slut is a dish of coddled egg on top of a smooth potato purée. It is then poached in a glass jar and served with toasty crostini. Now they serve it with a baguette. The coddled egg mixed in with the potato puree was so buttery and delicious. Was I supposed to eat it on top of the bread? I didn’t see a use for it. The egg and potatoes in the glass jar were all that I needed — I just didn’t see a need for the bread. If the mixture was a bit more savory or salty, I would like to eat it with the bread. Just think of very buttery mashed potatoes with a nicely poached egg on top, topped with salt and chives. It is so simple and delicious.

Eggslut has some lines when it is lunch time. My wait was only about 10 minutes. Sitting there at the bar, enjoying my sandwich and poached egg was memorable. The ingredients were so pure and simple — the preparation was the star. Alvin Cailan, creator of Eggslut now has a ramen shop called Ramen Champ in Chinatown. I can’t wait to try that in the near future.

Eggslut on Urbanspoon

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Cafe Gratitude – Vegans are People Too

February 6, 2015

Super Bowl is a day of feasting, and not in the sense of a holiday meal, but in a snacking and binge eating sense. We Americans put down nearly 30 million pounds of chips and over a billion chicken wings. A single chicken can only make four pieces of chicken wings — that calculates to [...]

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Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. – I’m Guilty

February 4, 2015

It is always good to see a somewhat popular restaurant in Monterey Park that isn’t Chinese or Asian. Even though Tokyo Fried Chicken Company suggests something Asian, I still think of it as southern fried chicken. Though it may have some Japanese influences, it is all about the fried chicken here. Fried chicken was the [...]

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Bella Cuba – Post-Shopping Meal

February 2, 2015

Sometimes, Cuban food just hits the spot. The classic Latino flavors and dishes of Bella Cuba just hit the mark. After a long day of shopping at South Coast Plaza, Bella Cuba was a good energizer. Their classic Cuban dishes were comforting. Nothing is more comforting that having meat and rice. Bread and butter at [...]

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Copenhagen Pastry – Danish Baking Perfected

January 28, 2015

Copenhagen Pastry is an authentic Danish pastry shop. They use the best ingredients and their technique is so refined. This creates pastries that are flaky, light, and delicate. Their fillings are traditionally almond paste and custard, and got to try a variety of their treats. My favorite was the Kringle. It was the sweetest of [...]

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The Golden State – Burgers and Bacon

January 25, 2015

The Golden State on Fairfax was at one point touted as having the best burgers in Los Angeles. I am a burger snob, and I can say that if the time was taken, I can one dope burger. The menu is simple: burgers, sandwiches, salads, and sides. They even have Let’s Be Frank hot dogs [...]

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Slapfish – Chowder My Fries

January 23, 2015

In a fast casual setting, Slapfish is all about being fresh and fast. They are all about fine dining with the price of something along the lines of Rubio’s (think California Fish Grill). The environment was clean and reminded me of a beachside local spot. We didn’t necessarily get there really early, but the restaurant [...]

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