Monthly Archives: June 2012

Rolling in Dough

Lowbrow food and drinks of the past are all being refined and transfomed these days into high-end gourmet fare.  Beer, for example, which was once thought of as the beverage of the blue collar working class, has been transformed into a wide variety of artisan craft microbrews and offered in virtually all restaurants serving high-end, cutting-edge cuisine.  And with beer’s ascendence,  it was only a matter of time before its prior proletarian partner, the pretzel, went gourmet.  

Incredibly delicious artisan pretzels can be found at Coffee Tomo, a cute little coffee house that opened last year in Little Osaka, just off of Sawtelle in West LA.  Coffee Tomo’s pretzels are fresh, warm soft pretzels stuffed with a variety of things.  My favorite pretzel is stuffed with sweet potato puree and cheese.  It’s sweet and salty and incredibly delicious.  I also like the pretzel filled with beef and cheese (pictured above).  

To accompany your pretzels, Coffee Tomo has really excellent “hand dripped” coffee, cappuccino and other coffee drinks, as well as tea. The other specialty at Coffee Tomo is the Honey Butter Bread.  Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, it’s similar to a Belgian waffle and is drizzed with caramel sauce and topped with whipped cream.  It’s dangerously good!

Coffee Tomo is located at 11309 Mississippi Ave, Los Angeles (in West Los Angeles).

Honey Butter Bread

Sweet Potato and Cheese Pretzel (outside)

Sweet Potato and Cheese Pretzel (inside)

Cheese Tomo

Crowded on the weekends.

Coffee Tomo on Urbanspoon

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Filed under West LA

End of the World Party

As you may have heard, the last day of the 5,125-year-long Mayan calendar is December 21st of this year. Is the world going to end on that day? Probably not. Is it a good reason for an end of the world party? You bet! And I know exactly where to get the food. Chichen Itza Restaurant, named after the ancient Mayan city, specializes in Mexican cuisine from the Yucatan region (where the Mayans lived) and is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. It’s located in the awesome Mercado La Paloma Community Marketplace, a cool and funky warehouse-like space/food court where you can get inexpensive gourmet grub, view an art show and buy a dress for a quinceanara. Mercado La Paloma was also the home of my favorite Peruvian restaurant, Mo-Chica, until it moved to swankier digs a few weeks ago.

I’ve had almost everything on the menu at Chichen Itza and I love every dish there. The Kibis are an amazing way to start your meal. Introduced to the Yucatan by Lebanese immigrants more than a century ago, they are ground beef and cracked wheat patties which have been seasoned with mint and spices, fried golden brown and served with Yucatecan pickled red onions. I also recommend the Sikil-Pac, a dip made with roasted tomatoes, pumpkin seeds & chives, and served with tortilla chips. The Tacos de Chicharron, made with crispy fried pork cracklings, pico de gallo and diced avocados are really unusual and a must-have. But my favorite dishes of all are the Queso Relleno, which is edam cheese stuffed with ground pork, olives and capers and served with a white sauce, and the Cochonita Pibil, a very popular Yucatecan specialty of braised pork which has been wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf with achiote marinade. To drink, get an Agua de Chaya, a sweet beverage made with a leafy green vegetable known as “tree spinach.” I know that a green vegetable drink might not sound appealing but trust me on this one. Like everything else at Chichen Itza, it’s really good!

Chichen Itza is located at 3655 S. Grand Ave in Los Angeles (South LA near USC).



Tacos de Chicharron

Queso Relleno

Cochonita Pibil

Poc Chuc (thin slices of pork loin, cooked over mesquite charcoal, marinated with sour orange juice served with roasted red onion, roasted tomato sauce, avocado, black bean puree and corn tortillas)

Platanos con Crema

Queso Napolitano

Agua de Chaya

Chichen Itza on Urbanspoon

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Filed under South Los Angeles

Thai Me Up

Some like it hot and I, for one, love spicy food, the kind that makes my mouth burn a little, my heart race and my forehead perspire. My favorite Thai restaurant in LA, Jitlada, does not disappoint when it comes to turning up the heat. Jitlada specializes in exotic Southern Thai food, not the typical Pad Thai Noodles and Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce that you find in most American Thai restaurants (although you can get these dishes at Jitlada if you so desire). I recommend focusing on the Southern Thai portion of the extensive menu. There you will find extrordinary treasures; complex and unusual dishes, many of which pack a punch with their level of spiciness.

Any visit to Jitlada should start with the Crying Tiger Pork appetizer; juicy pieces of deliciously salty and sweet pork with a very spicy sauce served on the side. I also love the Crispy Morning Glory Salad (pictured above), an amazing salad of deep fried Chinese watercress, shrimp, red cabbage, onions and cilantro with a spicy citrus dressing. Be careful if you order the Papaya Salad; it is one of the spiciest things I’ve ever had there.

My favorite dish at Jitlada is the Soft Shell Crab Noodles; broad noodles with an amazing Thai sauce and battered and fried pieces of soft shell crab. If you want to go more exotic, try the Basil Frog Legs or the Green Curry Dragon Eggs, which are fish balls stuffed with duck egg yolks in a green curry sauce; very unique and delicious. To wash it all down, you could get a Thai Iced Tea, but I recommend a Mango Smoothie and because this is Jitlada, you can even order the smoothie spicy (I always do).

A word of warning about Jitlada: the service can often be very slow. But this is a small price to pay for such incredible Southern Thai Food. As is any suffering in the bathroom after your spicy meal.

Jitlada is located at 5233 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles (in Hollywood).

Spicy Mango Smoothies

Crying Tiger Pork

Fried Chicken

Soft Shell Crab Noodles

Green Curry Dragon Eggs

Basil Frog Legs

It's not fancy but it's awesome!

Jitlada Thai on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Hollywood

Popcorn Bacon

If dining out was a sport, then eating at Black Hogg would be referred to as “Extreme Gastropubbing.” Debuting a few months ago in Silverlake, but awaiting its liquor license, Black Hogg is not for timid (or healthy) eaters. Their signature dish is “Popcorn Bacon” (pictured above), small chunks of bacon which have been battered and deep fried just like Popcorn Shrimp. It’s good (how could it not be?), but undeniably hardcore.

Other small plates include Fried Olives with Honey Goat Cheese, Roasted Marrow Bones with Breakfast Radishes, Longaniza Sausage Hash with Fried Egg, Ale-Battered Cod with Ruffle Chips, and Spicy Chicken Liver on Toast with Chicken Cracklin’. On a recent visit, my favorite dish was the Pork Belly Tacos with Fuji Apple Slaw and Jalapeno Relish. It’s very spicy and insanely good. I also really liked the Brussels Sprouts with Anchovy Citronette and Gremolata, although maybe I just felt good about eating a vegetable dish among all the rich indulgences.

The deep fried fun continues with dessert, where you can order Chai Spiced Churros with Warm Walnut Oil Ganache. Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, these are possibly the best churros I have ever tasted. The other dessert on the menu combines three of my favorite things (tres leches, rhubarb and bread pudding), but it was disappointing. The restaurant space itself is surprising. With this kind of fare and the Silverlake location, I was expecting dark and ornate, but the room is actually light with mostly modern decor.

Final verdict on Black Hogg: it’s quite good and very fun, but you might want to get your cholesterol checked first. Black Hogg is located at 2852 W. Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles (in Silverlake).

Spicy Chicken Liver on Toast with Chicken Cracklin'

Pork Belly Tacos with Fuji Apple Slaw and Jalapeno Relish

Mary's Brick Chicken, Brussels Sprouts, Anchovy Citronette

Chai Spiced Churros with Warm Walnut Oil Ganache

Three Milks & Rhubarb Bread Pudding with Fresh Cream and Hazelnuts

Surprisingly bright and modern interior

Black Hogg on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Silver Lake

Welcome to the Gun Show

Son of a Gun is one of the hottest joints in town. Launched last year by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, Son of a Gun is the seafood version of their amazing meat-centric restaurant Animal. Like Animal, Son of a Gun is situated in a small, cozy space and serves pricy little plates of creative genius. The atmosphere is casual and fun. The walls are strewn with nautical tchotchkes and the bar turns out luscious libations such as Tiki-Cones (alcoholic snow cones) and Dark & Stormies made with housemade ginger beer. Dinner reservations at Son of a Gun are difficult to get on short notice, but walk-ins are accommodated at a very long communal table in the center of the restaurant.

The menu, which changes daily, features around 35 different small plates, almost all of which are meant for sharing. Surprisingly, one of the most popular items at this seafood eatery is a fried chicken sandwich. It’s incredibly delicious and is prepared with an unruly mass of spicy bread & butter pickle slaw and “Rooster” aioli. Other sandwiches that are definite must-haves are the Lobster Roll with Celery and Lemon Aioli and the Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Herbs and Sriracha Mayo. I also highly recommend Benton’s Country Ham Hush Puppies with Honey Butter, which looks at first glance like falafel balls with hummus. If you want something healthier and equally delicious, get the Amberjack Crudo with Galbi Vinaigrette and Pink Lady, as well as the Raw Gloucester Scallop with Yuzo Kosho Viniagrette and Wood Sorrel. The desserts are less impressive, but each time I get to that point at Son of a Gun, I’m usually too stuffed to care.

Son of a Gun is located at 8370 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles (Mid-City).

Lobster Roll with Celery and Lemon Aioli

Fried Chicken Sandwich with Spicy B&B Pickle Slaw and Rooster Aioli

Shrimp Toast Sandwich with Herbs and Sriracha Mayo

Benton's Country Ham Hush Puppies with Honey Butter

Octopus Confit Salad with Mirepoix and Chili

Raw Gloucester Scallop with Yuzu Kosho Vinaigrette and Wood Sorrel

Amberjack Crudo with Galbi Vinaigrette and Pink Lady

Monkfish in Pho Fumet with Herbs, Lime and Bok Choy

Frozen Lime Yogurt with Graham Crumble and Toasted Meringue

The big communal table

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Son of a Gun Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Filed under Mid-City