Monthly Archives: February 2011

Jogasaki Sushi Burritos: Jumping The Food Truck Shark?

A Sushi Burrito: Jogasaki Special #1

     Has the whole LA food truck scene in LA jumped the shark? All signs seem to point to a resounding yes. Pan-Asian Caribbean Fusion Truck? Sure. Doughnut Burger Truck? Bring it on. Deep Fried Ice Cream Mobile? Hells yes. For every successful food truck venture such as Kogi or Nom Nom, a dozen imitators spring up, armed with only a twitter account, a gimmicky concept and a flashy paint job on a P.O.S. van. Can a city, even one as big as LA, really require five Indian food trucks? or four Filipino trucks? The firm laws of economics dictate that all this surplus food-truckery coupled with trickling demand will probably not end well for the both parties. But perhaps there is hope: a food truck so seemingly hair-brained that it succeeds by sheer hutzpah, reawakening the youthful possibility that lies in mobile food. Enter the Jogasaki Truck, home of the Sushi Burrito. Continue reading

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Soul (Food) Searching: R&R Soul Food & Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen

Fried Chicken, Greens, Mac n' Cheese, and Yams

     When it comes to Southern cuisine in Los Angeles, the lion’s share of attention goes to barbecue: long-winded debates comparing the soot-covered barrel smokers of Bludso’s or Phillip’s, or the proper peppery tang of Big Mista’s secret sauce. And if barbecue isn’t the topic, then perhaps someone will bring up Roscoe’s Chicken n’ Waffles, a southern-style greasy spoon that is by any measure a Los Angeles institution know for it’s half-hour waits and celebrity endorsements as much as it’s food. The truth is Los Angeles is home to an impressive collection of traditional Southern Soul Food restaurants that extend well beyond the BBQ shacks or the heavy-treaded diner chains slinging plates of chicken and waffles. Though soul food can trace it’s origins to African-American culture, it has undoubtedly woven itself into the national palette as nostalgia-inducing comfort cuisine: crunchy fried chicken smothered in onions and brown gravy, stewed greens seasoned with tender pits of pork, cloyingly sweet pieces of peach cobbler topped with ice cream. Dishes are cooked low and slow and, as any southern chef will insist, rely on care, patience and heart in order to be called true soul food. Continue reading

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Bru’s Wiffle: A Waffle For All Seasons

Meatball Waffles... For Breakfast?!


      Is it really possible to dislike waffles, the most utilitarian of all breakfast staples? As the late, great Mitch Hedberg insightfully observed, “waffles are like pancakes with syrup traps.” Seeking to extend the waffle beyond it’s humble breakfast origins is the oddly-named Bru’s Wiffle in Santa Monica, which opened late last year. The quiet café wouldn’t be out of place in a spring Ikea catalogue: an open, airy space brightly decorated in pastel colors and simple oak furniture. Much in the same vein as it’s spunkier sister restaurant Bruxie’s Waffle in Orange, a former burger stand which has become an all-hours favorite amongst Chapman undergrads, Bru’s operates on the premise that waffle consumption is appropriate for both all hours and all tastes. Continue reading

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Pop-Up Pupusas in Mid-City: Homemade In The Front Yard

Homemade Pupusas

     Forget Justin Bieber or Jersey Shore, 2010 was the year of the “pop-up” restaurant. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Portland, Austin, and San Diego are now all home to various establishments which organize gourmet movable feasts that range from painstakingly elaborate to maniacally secretive. Pioneered in 2007 by Los Angeles chef Ludo Lefebvre, whose Ludobites dinners are now so popular they sell out at rates faster than Coachella, the trend has given birth to a host of chef-driven supper clubs that are unbound by long term commitments both in terms of physical location and culinary style, including the current toast of the LA blogosphere, Craig Thornton, who runs the pay-as-you-like, Hendrix-esque sounding Wolvesden Underground Dining Experience. The word of mouth nature of these restaurants is undoubtedly a good thing, allowing diners to rub elbows with the chefs they admire based on a system in which exclusivity favors culinary enthusiasm rather than monetary privilege. However, like the food truck trend preceding it (which has now reached such a bubble of over saturation that Tim Geithner may soon have to step in) the pop-up scene is not entirely original and rather is the natural conclusion of an idea that can trace its roots to much more modest origins here in Los Angeles. Many could cite inspiration in the numerous taco carts that line Fletcher and Larga on various nights, the cart-pushing Oaxacan “Quesadilla Lady” whose small griddle churns out cheesy blue-corn gems in Echo Park, or even the acclaimed Ricky’s Fish Tacos which quickly progressed from a roadside weekend hobby into a beer-battered phenomenon. Still, I can think of no better example of a true “pop-up” than the small pupuseria and taqueria which opens a few nights every week in the front yard of a residential home just off Jefferson Boulevard. Continue reading

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La Sirena Azul: Unsung Mariscos Bliss

Shrimp and Abalone Cocktail

     For geographical reasons that are beyond me, a 10-minute drive south of LAX will land you in a section of town that holds one of the best collection of Mexican seafood restaurants in Los Angeles. Draw a small circle on a map where the nebulous borders of Inglewood, Lennox and Hawthorne cross and you will find it includes such solid marisquerias as El Puerto Escondido, Mariscos Moni, and the highly-regarded Mariscos Chente, roughly forming a Bermuda Triangle of mariscos inside of which many others are hidden. One of my current favorites is the tiny La Sirena Azul, which lies in a quiet stretch of Century Boulevard located in South Inglewood. It’s not so much a restaurant as a kitchen with few tables out front, flanked on either side by a dusty jukebox and a beer cooler. From the dining room you can see large pots of stew bubbling on the stove and the remains of freshly shucked oyster halves lining the counter. La Sirena’s chef and owner hails from north of Puerto Vallarta, a city which prides itself on it’s seafood, so it’s not much of a surprise to see the menu is composed of the quintessential dishes from the Mexican coast: ceviches, cocteles, aguachiles and pescado frito. Come around 4 o’clock, and you will find the place packed with Latino workers craving a refreshing meal after a long day. Continue reading

Yu Ga Ne Authentic Korean Dumpling: Mandu For The Masses

Kimchi (Left) and Leek (Right) Dumplings

     Like most good Koreatown hole-in-the-walls, chances are if you weren’t fluent in Korean you would pass Yu Ga Ne without notice. In addition, I’d imagine than even a good amount of native Koreans would walk by this dumpling house without thinking twice. Situated in a tiny detached building that looks more akin to a maintenance shed than restaurant, its only identifier is a small sign in English that reads Yu Ga Ne Authentic Korean Dumpling accompanied by a slightly larger sign in Korean. Beyond that, the exterior of this mom-and-pop diner is wall of tightly drawn bamboo shades and faded pictures of noodle dishes. A look inside reveals a few chairs and tables which are separated from the kitchen by only a well-worn screen door. Though sometimes a lone student or retiree will take a seat and peruse a newspaper as they eat, most of customers here are older women who pop in, gossip with the owners for a few minutes, then leave with a box or two of freshly steamed dumplings. Considering the multitude of Korean restaurants in Los Angeles and the fact that most of them feature some specialization into a particular dish it’s a wonder that more don’t focus on mandu, otherwise know as Korean dumplings. It’s certainly debatable whether Yu Ga Ne serves the best mandu in the city, but by all standards they make an exceptional meal in terms of flavor-to-cost ratio. For $4.99 you can enjoy a platter of 6 steamed king dumplings; they are easily the best thing on the menu: hand-formed doughy ovals stuffed to the point that they resemble oversized Easter eggs. Continue reading

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