Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Rain-Soaked Koreatown Blues: Han Bat Sul Lung Tang and Koo’s Sweet Rice Pancake

Mixed Sul Lung Tang

     Los Angeles is currently facing the full brunt of a heavy storm system that is expected to last the entire week. Or, to put it as my grandfather used to say, it’s raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. It’s common knowledge that people in this fair city completely lose their shit when rain starts a fallin’. LA motorists are as cautious with their speed during inclement weather as they with their turn signals on the freeway. Add on top the logistical stress that a week of straight rainfall has on a city that usually experiences 300 days of sunshine a year, and rainy LA makes for a pretty sucky place. Yet, even in the midst of crisis there lies great opportunity, as the old proverb goes. For me that opportunity was finding solace in a good rainy day meal that would warm the body and nourish the soul. For that I headed to Koreatown, inspired by the recent post of the oddly-named Chowhounder, ‘mrgreenbeenz’. Koreatown may not seem like an obvious choice for a day meal on a stormy day, but when you consider it in terms of geography it makes perfect sense. Korea is located very far north in terms of latitude. In fact, North Korea is only a stones throw away from the vast frozen wasteland of Eastern Russia (even closer than Sarah Palin). So naturally Korean cuisine has a wide array of dishes that are exceptional for knocking out the chill caused by a blustery day.

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Tokyo 7-7’s Last Meal: A Farewell to Omelettes

The Tokyo 7-7 Special

     As some of you may know, December 18th was the last day of business for one of Culver City’s most unique and beloved eateries. Much has been said about Tokyo 7-7, a small shop pigeoned-holed by parking structures and the burgeoning classier eateries of downtown Culver. It is an odd pastiche of a diner to say the least: serving both Japanese comfort foods as well as American greasy spoon mainstays at prices that echo a time when Members Only jackets were worn without a trace of irony. Tokyo 7-7’s other-worldy nostalgia lasted 27 years with compromising to the pressures of a changing world. Not bad for a place where the waitresses total checks on abacuses and sell packs of cigarettes from the behind the counter between slinging plates of spam and eggs.
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Al-Watan Halal Restaurant: Love Me Tandoor

Tandoori Chicken


      The Tandoor, a clay oven used for cooking in India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, is an impressive piece of masonry. Temperatures inside the oven can reach up to 900° Fahrenheit, much hotter than the famous wood-fired Sicilian pizza ovens (those are around 700°). When a tandoor oven is hot enough, skewers of meat are lowered in to cook, developing a crispy and chewy skin while sealing in the juices of the meat. Dough is then plastered to the edges of the oven as the meat cooks, giving birth to another tandoor favorite, Naan, a thick chewy bread that can be stuffed or topped with a variety of ingredients. Suffice it to say the art of the tandoor is quite a feat, not unlike trying to cook your food from the flaming exhaust of a jet engine. In the mastery of such of high-temperature roasting there are few places in LA that rival Hawthorne’s Al-Watan Halal Restaurant. Continue reading

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Simpang Asia: Mean Green Mung Bean

     Los Angeles’ Palms neighborhood is easy to miss. Stuck between the hubbub of Culver City and Beverly Hills, it consists mostly residential apartments and a few ethnic grocery stores. One highlight, though, is the small stretch of National Blvd. between Motor and Overland representing this neighborhood’s closest version of a Main St. In these couple blocks you’ve got a excellent selection of eateries including Roy Choi’s Chego, which in it’s short  8 month span has already become quite legendary. Yet, the restaurant in Palms that keeps me returning again and again out of sheer intrigue is the tiny Indonesian cafe/grocery, Simpang Asia. Indonesian cuisine is heavily influenced by India, the Middle East, China, as well as the various countries of Southeast Asia. This makes for a complex menu that seems both familiar and foreign at once. In my experience though, navigating the menu is not necessary as whatever you order will probably be A) delicious and B) improved by a few spoonfuls of chili paste. Continue reading

Thanksgiving on a Bun: Could Soul Burgers Be LA’s New Best Burger?

    I thought I had heard rumors that a burger like this existed somewhere. But perhaps I had only dreamt of it, tapping into some kind of burger collective unconsciousness. Whatever lead me to Soul Burgers certainly felt like destiny as I couldn’t have been more excited by what I saw on the menu. Yet, as the lone diner inside a small burger shop directly across the street from Inglewood’s Hollywood Park Racetrack I have to admit I was feeling quite anxious. I  had waited 15 minutes and my food had yet to come out of the kitchen as I sat staring at the portraits of Motown legends plastered on the walls. I worried that I had built this burger up to an impossibly high standard and soon the reality would arrive: a soggy, cold, misshapen lump from a restaurant that hadn’t been open for more than 6 months. I couldn’t have been any further from the truth. Continue reading

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Ugly Roll: The Search for Cheap Non-Lethal Sushi


          There are three things that Los Angeles’ upper crust is always willing to fork out premium prices for: German autos, Italian fashions and Japanese sushi. It’s that last one that is often the most impressive in its mastery: dishes served at places like Urasawa or Sushi Zo boast some of the finest and freshest ingredients available, prepared by chefs so skilled they make brain surgeons look jittery. Of course, it comes at cost; go often enough and you may rack up the kind of debt usually reserved for recent college grads. The good news is that you can still find some decent sushi in LA for the same price as valet parking at Sugarfish. Continue reading

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George’s Coffee Shop: A Classic Diner with Seoul

     If some young indie director finds himself location scouting for his next mumblecore flick he could do a lot worse than George’s Coffee Shop, a cramped and unassuming Korean-American diner tucked away in a sleepy Culver City strip mall. With its weathered 1970’s sign and it’s outdated décor, George’s is the quintessential LA greasy spoon that has changed little but its prices (paced with inflation of course) since it first opened. Similar to its kindred sibling across town, Tokyo 7-7, George’s menu is filled with a few unique ethnic quirks that make it much more than the apparent sum of its parts. The diner is run by an older Korean couple, both of whom seem to have developed a harmony with the often hectic weekend breakfast crowd. They sling plates and clear tables with an efficiency and calmness that speaks to how long they’ve been at it for. Don’t take personal offense when the no-nonsense waitress/matriarch approaches your table holding her pen and note pad with a demeanor that suggests she may hail from somewhere north of the 38th parallel, that’s just the way it’s done at George’s. Continue reading

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