pork

Kobawoo House – Koreatown’s Bossam

by Franklin on May 13, 2013

What can I say about Koreatown? In fact, what good things can I say about Koreatown? I can’t really think of anything, sadly. It’s dirty, over populated, and it’s pretty much the “New Jersey” of Los Angeles. As a Korean American, I grew up eating and breathing Koreatown. My parents, like almost all Koreans, do business here have some sort of connection to Koreatown. One great thing about Koreatown is the Korean food. With Korean BBQ joints on every corner and every other Korean food you can think of, its available. One of my favorite places to get bossam is Kobawoo House on the corner of 7th and Vermont. The food is great, and every single patron gets the bossam. Bossam is steamed or boiled pork that is wrapped in leaf vegetables. It is often topped with a fermented bean paste or marinated tiny shrimp or kimchi. Sometimes (most times) I get a craving for bossam, and this is the place to get your fix.

Before we got our bossam, we were given some side dishes (banchan). We had some stir fried sweet potato noodles (japchae), 2 kinds of kimchi, and fishcake. I never know if the side dishes are supposed to be eaten with the meal, but I always treated it as an appetizer. I always go for the kimchi. The noodles were perfect, but never as good as my mom’s japchae.

The bossam came in thin slices, stacked on top of each other. The pork taste was mild and the skin was gelatinous and soft. Wrapping it in their perfectly picked Napa cabbage, the morsel of food is perfect in itself. The toppings of the salty shrimp and the dried and marinated radishes gave it a nice spicy flavor. The salty shrimp and pork made a good combination, and the dried marinated radish gave it a nice crunch. To top it all off, I added their soy sauce marinated jalapeno peppers to give the bite some needed heat. Wrapping the whole thing together was a huge amount of food, but I managed to fit the whole thing in my mouth. I would try biting it in half, but the Napa cabbage doesn’t break off too easily. Plus, fitting the whole thing in your mouth and eating it is the Korean way. There is no shame in that. A bite of their pink pickled radish to cleanse the palate, and I was ready for another.

Another item I ordered was their seafood pancake (Haemul Panjun). The sizzling seafood pancake had a mixture of scallops, shrimp, oyster, squid, clams, and green onion. The whole thing was mixed with flour and cooked on a skillet. It was sliced like pizza into 6, and served. After one, I was tired of it. The pancake was thick and dense. The mixture of the seafood was good, especially dipped in the vinegar, green onion, and soy sauce mixture. If it weren’t for this, this wouldn’t have been even considered. I should have ordered the cheaper and smaller kimchi pancake. It would have suited the bossam a little better. In hind sight, I would have foregone the seafood pancake.

Kobawoo House is a popular spot in Koreatown — there’s usually a wait during lunch and dinner. I remember seeing them at the LA Weekly Pancake Breakfast and trying their Korean style pancakes. It was really good, and knew their pancakes were not even specialty. Honestly, Kobawoo House is the place to get bossam. Maybe you can get the Korean style pancakes, but really, its all about the bossam. Other places are good, but the pork at Kobawoo is sublime and the small details in flavor are unmatched. I can go for some right now.

Kobawoo on Urbanspoon

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We all have our favorite go to BBQ joints. Some of my favorites, interestingly located in Orange County is Blake’s and the chain, Lucille’s. LA and Orange county is in a position where good barbecue joints are plenty, but truly great ones are few and far between. As of yet, I don’t have a favorite authentic bbq spot. Short Stop BBQ, a mobile food truck serving, well, BBQ was a shot in the dark. I didn’t know anything about it and I didn’t do my research beforehand. I just saw the words BBQ and I went for it. It let me to wonder how a food truck can smoke racks and racks of ribs and slabs of pork. Intrigued, I had to try their bbq.

I ordered the pulled pork sandwich, a common item at any bbq joint. Topped with creamed corn, I was excited to try it. The pork was tender, but as expected, it was a bit dry. The creamed corn, though it helped moisten the pork, it was mushy. Traditionally, pulled pork sandwiches have a slaw of some sort. This gives it a nice bite and crunch with the tender pork. The creamed corn actually added to the pork’s mush. I wanted the corn to have that bite that the cole slaw offered. The bbq sauce, another important element in good bbq was a bit lacking as well. It didn’t have a flavor profile that distinguished itself from the rest. It was neither spicy, sweet, or tangy. Maybe the creamed corn had to do with the taste of the sauce, but it would have been better with a more pronounced sauce. Don’t get me wrong. The sandwich wasn’t all bad. The bread was a perfect, and the pork in it of itself was great, but the sandwich didn’t leave me wanting more. I ate it, and it was immediately forgotten — I didn’t crave it after it was all gone.

I know. It was only one thing out of all of their items on the menu. Still though, a sandwich that is probably the most important when it comes to bbq should be the end all, be all. I would like to give Short Stop BBQ another whirl. Their tri tip sandwich seemed promising with the “bleu slaw” and the burgers with smoked pork belly seems like a winner. Heck, even their bleu cheese and tri tip frites seem delicious. Did I order the wrong thing? Possible. I just know that great authentic bbq is hard to find at any restaurant. That means finding it at a food truck is a near impossible task. But then again, it seems to me that I have a weird and insatiable criteria for bbq. I would have a field day if I ever had a chance to try the great bbq meccas in America, whether it be in Texas, Illinois, Kansas, or the Carolinas. Some day, I suppose. Sadly, those may never reach the west.

Shortstop BBQ (Food Truck) on Urbanspoon

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Spago is located in Beverly Hills, amongst some of the most expensive restaurants in Los Angeles — Spago is a local icon. More so, Wolfgang Puck is an even larger icon. As a kid, you always heard about Wolfgang Puck, Spago, and how wonderful of a chef he was. Wolfgang is a celebrity, possibly the most famous chef in the world. The guy has a lot of restaurants, many in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. I was glad to see Spago on the list of Dine LA restaurants. Getting a reservation was a battle to say the least. The time was now, and I was honored to have eaten at one of his fine establishments. The dinner I had at Spago will be remembered forever. Now, before you judge me and say that I am hyping up the restaurant, the food had little to do with that. Certain items were spectacular, but something amazing happened that night that I will never forget.

Arriving, we didn’t need to wait long. My girlfriend ordered a drink at the bar before dinner. The main floor was adorned with cute pictures and stained glass on the ceiling. The interior was a bit dated compared to the new “hip” restaurants in town, but Spago’s interior design was classic, aged like a fine wine. The outdoor patio was amazingly lit and beautiful. The servers were friendly and accommodating — Everyone said hello and wished us a good meal. It definitely wasn’t a stuffy atmosphere. Bread was served from a tray, and you picked a couple that looked appealing. My favorite were the crisps and the olive bread. This was the beginning of a great meal.

Appetizer: Kona Kampachi sashimi. Each bite of the fish was few, but delicious. The crispy rice crackers on the plate tasted like crispy fried pork skin with a hint of sesame oil. The pickled dragon carrots were tart and sweet — it helped cleanse my palate. The most interesting was the tosa soy gel and yuzu air. It was a kind of a gelatinized soy sauce. The fish in itself was fresh and pure so it didn’t need much of the sauce.

Appetizer: My dungeness crab risotto was a bit off. I couldn’t help but think the texture of the risotto was too grainy. The sauce was also off as it wasn’t starchy enough. Despite that, the Spanish saffron and squid ink vinaigrette tasted very good with it.

Main: I had the roasted kurobuta pork loin and braised pork belly. It came with roasted brussels sprouts and puree of butternut squash. The pork loin was cooked perfectly, without an ounce of dryness. The sauce accompanied by the pork was rich and earthy, almost like a mushroom and onion reduction. The star of the dish was the pork belly. Rich in fat, each bite melted in my mouth. It was sticky and gelatinous, and the flavor was perfect.

Main: The pan seared Maine diver scallops were cooked perfectly. I always thought food came in odd numbers — 1, 3, 5. I was a bit confused when there were only 2 scallops on the plate. Either way, the scallops couldn’t have been better. It was nicely done inside and out, and had a silky, buttery texture. The confit fingerling potatoes, hazelnut brown butter, parsnip puree and mache salad all came together to make this dish very special. Dish wise, this one was better than the pork. Item wise, the pork belly took it.

Dessert: The dessert came in a trio. Instead of picking one of the three, you got all three! Though each item was small, it was nice to have tried all of them. The Candy Apple had honey poached fuji apples on top of a salted pretzel puff pastry. It was served with a Tahitian vanilla ice cream. The chocolate bar had a triple layer chocolate caramel cake. It was topped with crispy cracker jacks and chocolate caramel truffles. The sticky treacle upside-down cake had warm golden syrup toffee sauce and a thin slice of grapefruit. My favorite was the chocolate caramel cake. It was nice to see cracker jacks, an every man’s food, at such a non every man’s restaurant. You also can’t go wrong with chocolate.

Spago’s Dine LA menu was wonderful. The food was classically prepared and the atmosphere was friendly. My meal was delicious, but will I remember it my whole life? Maybe, but I will remember this experience. I mentioned in the beginning that I will remember this time forever. That is because something out of the ordinary happened.

After our dessert was finished, we waited for the check. The waitress came to our table and explained to us that our check was covered by the gentleman behind us! In shock, we just looked at each other with confusion. He didn’t leave a name or a card or anything. He was just an anonymous (though not quite) person who wanted to be generous. We are talking Spago here, not some free lunch or pizza — I’m sure our bill was pricey. Out of the goodness of his heart, he felt generous and paid for our meal, tip, tax and all. I think even the waitress was in shock as she didn’t quite know how to tell us. I was just lost for words. This stuff never happens to anyone. I kept asking myself who would do such a thing?  We were truly blessed that night. It made me want to be a better man. I wanted to be generous. I guess good acts are indeed infectious. I did mention that the gentleman who paid for our check was anonymous. That is not quite true. As I was taking pictures from my seat, I did snap a picture behind me, as the kitchen was there. In that picture was that gentleman.  Little did I know he would end up generously paying for our meal.  The picture is a bit blurry, but he isn’t so anonymous after all. I chose not to share the picture because I’m sure he would have wanted to be left anonymous. If by chance you are reading this blog post sir, thank you for your generosity!  And of course, thank you Spago for an unforgettable meal.

Spago Beverly Hills on Urbanspoon

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The White Rabbit Truck was a pleasant surprise.  I heard about them a lot online and in the media, so I was excited to try their food.  This truck, a Filipino fusion truck, serves their take on tacos and burritos as well as rice bowls. A fan or Asian fusion with Mexican, I was inclined to try their most famous item on the menu, the pork sisig burrito.

The pork sisig burrito had garlic rice, pork sisigs, egg, and cheese.  This was a perfect balance of flavors and textures.  The pork was nice and tender.  Their pork sisig is deep fried pork belly, fried in onions and jalapenos.  The almost runny egg and cheese was a perfect creamy and velvety texture. Their garlic rice was perfect as well.  My gripe about some burritos is that the tortilla is not soft. I liked the tortilla from the sisig burrito — it was soft and chewy, almost silky.  This burrito was perfect because each individual item inside the burrito was perfect — together, it was exponentially more delicious.

The White Rabbit Truck offers a food eating challenge, which they are known for.  The burrito is almost 2ft long, and contains, 6 eggs, 3lbs of any choice of meat, 6 scoops of rice, 12 cheese slices, wrapped in 6 tortillas. That equates to 6 pounds! — Definitely bigger than my single tortilla burrito.  Here is the video of Adam Richman from Man v. Food on the White Rabbit Truck. Watch to see them make this monster, and see someone eating it. Does he actually finish it?

Honestly, I was happy to eat the burrito (the regular one of course).  Each bite gave me a smile.  Though I only had the normal one, one day, I shall attempt and possibly finish the challenge. Am I crazy? Maybe a little. Until then, the regular one will do for me.  Just like the chef on the logo, White Rabbit Truck is a thumbs up!

White Rabbit Fusion Cafe on Urbanspoon

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As you may already know, I go to Disneyland more often than I should.  And you probably already know that Disneyland has nothing good to eat.  Seeking something good to eat, I had a chance to eat at Napa Rose, their most expensive restaurant on the property available to the public. They are touted for their amazing wine selection and fine cuisine.  It is definitely a step above the Blue Bayou — it doesn’t exude cheap pirrates and theme park rides.  Napa Rose is classier, quieter, and the experience is just more like fine dining.

We were given complimentary bread.  I like it when restaurants give you different kinds of bread to eat, not the same boring rolls or slices. The parmasan crisps were really savory, and the bread was soft.  It was a great starter.

Other than the bread, we started off with the Smiling Tiger salad.  This was a great start of the meal, and a very decadent and tasty salad.   For one, it had tempura fried lobster.  The lobster flavor was all packed inside the batter and it was crunchy and delicious. On the bottom had spicy beef, which was more of a marinated beef.  The Asian greens mixed in with the coconut lime vinaigrette was tasty.  A bit on the sweet side, but sour as well.  This was a great salad with a lot of flavor.

As we were waiting for our food, we were given portabello cream bisque in a tiny pot, compliments of the chef. To our amazement, though the wait wasn’t that absurd, we enjoyed this soup.  It was cream of mushroom, but obvious not from the can.  It was rich in flavor and warmed the belly up.  Service like this really makes eating meals so fulfilling.  After that, we felt good.

We wanted keep the Asian theme continuing from the smiling tiger, so we ordered the Sizzling Beach Rock – It was a a combination appetizer of garlic seared shrimp, soy glazed spare ribs, and lemon grass chicken skewers, and large tiger shrimp cooked on a hot beach stone. The appetizer was for sharing.  the spare ribs and chicken skewers were kind of dry.  My favorite were the garlic shrimp, though, the tiger shrimp on the beach rock was even better.  All the little sharable appetizers was such an amazing thing to look at, as well as to eat.

I ordered the grilled Kurobuta pork rack chop.  This was a Berkshire pork chop stuffed with spanish chorizo on a rustic summer garden (okra) ragu.  The pork chop was thick and the chorizo inside was amazing. Though some bites were kind of dry, the chorizo and ragu helped make each bite be juicier.

Eating here, though not inside Disneyland, it still has some magic inside.  The tall ceilings and masterfully designed interior really make this place special.  They are all about service and good food. The wine selection is impressive and food is elegant.  Napa Rose is a nice place to celebrate a special occasion, or maybe have a glass of wine.  It has all of the whimsical and magical essences of Disneyland, but for adults.

Napa Rose at Grand Californian on Urbanspoon

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When choosing what food trucks to try, I go by a lot of things. I see what I am in the mood for, if I heard some buzz about them, and the affordability and taste factor of their menu. Frysmith Truck serves fries that you can eat as a meal. They are all about quality and being humane. All of their meat are from free range, and they only use kurobuta pork. All of their utensils and drink containers are all biodegradable. They even reuse the fry oil to run the truck. Amazing. They go the extra mile to be better to the Earth and the animals. That kind of care shows in their food.

It seems like everyone is heading towards the Korean craze, especially with food trucks. At the Frysmith Truck, I could have had the regular chili cheese fries, or poutine, but I wanted something different. Fries and gravy? Been there, done that. I had a choice between the kimchi fries or the rojas fries.

Being Korean and all, and wanting to see what this is all about, I opted for the kimchi fries. The fries were freshly cut — it reminded me of the fries at In-n-Out. On top, they melted cheddar cheese and put a generous amount of kimchi. Though they could have added a little more pork on top, the quality was superb. The kimchi had a sweet, not too spicy aspect which was perfect with the crispy fries. The green onions brought everything together.  This hit home, yet it was so different for me. From the looks of the empty plate, it was delicious.

It was a great experience to try this food truck. Fries loaded with some of my favorite foods. What isn’t there to love? I wish I had room in my stomach to try the rojas fries which consisted of chilis, steak, and cheese. Definitely something for the future. Though the menu is small, they know what the people want. Fries with a bunch of tasty stuff on top. It doesn’t get any better.

Frysmith (food truck) on Urbanspoon

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Some days, you have to let loose.  Diets and counting calories don’t matter.  You shut down your hunger sensors and gorge in a all you can eat meat fest.  Koreatown has Korean BBQ restaurant at almost every corner.  One of my favorites is Hae Jang Chon on 6th Street. They offer some good quality meat and I personally like their selection.  This is one of my favorites because of the stone plates that the meat is cooked on.  These things are like the iron skillets that get passed down generation to generation.  All the meat essence that was cooked before is still on there from past patrons.  Time after time after time, all that meat essence is still there, and it comes out in the food.

The time me and my family went, just like any other night, was a busy one.  We waited nearly over an hour, so plan on doing the same.  It was particularly loud inside.  People were binge eating and drinking — nothing out of the ordinary on a Saturday night in Koreatown. This is all part of the Korean BBQ experience.

The food here is just as good as the experience.  Besides their many side plates, my favorite meat options are thinly sliced beef, short rib meat, and pork belly. I also like to get the tongue.  The tongue has a nice beef flavor but is not as chewy.  It is tender and the flavor is really nice., contrary to what others may think.

I also tried the baby octopus.  The beef on pork on beef was getting kind of tiring.  I roasted the baby octopus for a little, making sure not to over cook it. It was very tender and wasn’t rubbery at all.

The ending is the best.  Once you are done with the meat, it is time to eat more.  They clean the rock slate and cook this vegetable rice mix.  It is crispy on the bottom and so good as a finisher.  Check out the video to see the waiter in action.

Eating all you can eat is good, but not all the time.  Once in a while though, you have to give in.  Cook all the meat that you want, just the way you like.  It is right in front of you and once it is done, you just eat.  Watch your tongue though, that grill is hot.

Hae Jang Chon Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Sometimes, you come across a family operation, and the food just speaks for itself.  El Farolito has some great home comfort Mexican food.  It is authentic as can be, and in the Orange County? No kidding.  This is my favorite Mexican restaurant in all of Orange County, so far.  Their food is simple, and really delicious.  It is going to take a lot to take this off the top of my list.

Every Mexican restaurant gives you those sought after tortilla chips.  Whether they are bottomless bowls or just one platter, eating Mexican food without the complimentary chips and salsa just isn’t right.  The one very minor thing I don’t like here is the salsa.  It is a bit mushy, and doesn’t taste fresh.  I like mine heavy with cilantro and chopped onions. Their tortilla chips are crispy.  When I say crispy, I mean some people might not like it crispy — your teeth will hurt after, crispy.  That’s not a good thing or bad thing.  If you want to try some of the crunchiest tortilla chips ever, come to El Farolito.

My favorite thing to get here is the carnitas.  It is amazing how juicy and flavorful their carnitas is.  Most carnitas I eat anywhere is usually dry or flavorless, kind of like cardboard.  Theirs is so tender and flavorful, it is amazing. There is a nice crispy crust on the outside.  The caramelization of the meat really is where all the flavor comes from.  It is amazing with the rice and beans.  It is such a simple dish, and I am a huge fan.

Their enchilada plate was amazing as well.  The tortilla was so soft and tasty, and the cheese on top was great.  You know how much I love cheese.  Their enchilada sauce was very memorable as well. It had a nice rich flavor and the meet inside was amazing.  It was a traditional dish and their portions were over flowing.  I always take leftovers home.

One wouldn’t expect such an authentic restaurant in Orange County.  I have been all around some popular and authentic Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, but this Orange County hole in the wall really surprised me. Honestly, it is as authentic as El Tepayac in Boyle Heights.  The flavors aren’t watered down or changed.  It is as authentic as can be.  It is what it is, and it is goooood.

El Farolito on Urbanspoon

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Litz Restaurant – Singaporean for a Change

by Franklin on April 22, 2011

My cousin and I had planned on having lunch on Saturday.  It was refreshing, as I don’t ever see him or hang out with him enough.  I called him around noon — no answer.  I got a text from him shortly after, telling me that he is hung over, and feels horrible.  I wasn’t quite sure if he meant he felt horrible from last night’s binge or about canceling on me. Either way, lunch was out of the question.

After a bit of recovery and rest, he made his way to my place — dinner was in the cards.  After checking online and other sources, he remembered a place he ate once.  We looked up the Singaporean establishment and surely, this was where he wanted to eat.  I never had Singaporean food ever, so I jumped on the chance. Litz Restaurant was where we were headed.

The place looked run down, dingy, and small.  The decor?  Stuck in the 90s.  They also got a score of 66 on the safety inspection.  I don’t know what the exact grade is, but that has to be in the “C” range.  “D” range? Already content on this place, and knowing that I have a pretty strong stomach, I gave it a try. I took the safe route and ordered the shrimp fried rice.  My cousin, not a fan of change, ordered what he had before, the pork chop with mushroom cream sauce.

I was surprised — despite the greasiness, my fried rice was not bad.  I would order that again any day.  My cousin’s pork chop was good too.  I wasn’t a fan of the cream sauce, but the actual pork chop was crispy and juicy.  To top it all off, me and my cousin were fine the next morning. No signs of food poisoning.

I learned a few things that night.  I learned not to judge a restaurant by its cover.  Don’t be afraid to try new things, I told myself. And most importantly, I realized that there are a lot of unique Asian cuisine around my neighborhood.  I will definitely try more things close to home.  I look back at that night.  I had good company and new foods – this is what dining experiences are made of.

Litz on Urbanspoon

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