Monthly Archives: August 2012

It’s Hip to Dip


Ikemen is the coolest little ramen joint in the city. With the motto “No Ramen, No Life,” this funky, diminutive Japanese eatery plays mid-century jazz, has a staff that wears red and black fedoras, and serves amazing and innovative food. Ikemen, which literally means “very handsome man” is the creation of Shigetoshi Nakamura, a well-known ramen master in Japan.

The speciality of the house is Tsukemen, which Nakamura calls “Dip Ramen.” Tsukemen is the hottest food trend to hit LA in the past year and is essentially a bowl of hot, super-rich, concentrated broth (which Nakamura refers to as “Tonkotsu Au Jus”) and a plate of lukewarm, thick and chewy noodles, as well as slices of roast pork or grilled chicken. You eat the noodles a couple strands at a time after dipping them in the broth with your chopsticks. After you’ve polished off your noodles, you can ask your server to add a little hot water to the remaining broth so that it is converted into more of a soup than a sauce. Ikemen serves several different versions of its Dip Ramen, including the Zebra Dip with green onions and stripes of garlic oil, the Ghost Buster Dip with cream, mushrooms, truffle oil and marshmallows, and my favorite, the Italian-inspired Johnny Dip with tomatoes and basil.

Ikemen also serves excellent traditional ramen in many varieties, including a vegetarian one and a “Special Premium Tonkatsu Ramen,” of which only ten servings are prepared each day. In addition, the menu features a fun and eclectic mix of appetizers. My favorites are the Dragon Balls (fried octopus “takoyaki”), sliders served on bao buns, French fries with truffle oil and parmesan cheese and mini black pork sausages. Unfortunately, for now, they don’t serve alcohol. I suggest that after dinner at Ikemen, you head over to nearby Rocket Video and rent one of director Seijun Suzuki’s ultra-hip 1960’s Japanese Mafia films such as Tokyo Drifter or Branded to Kill. It will be the perfect complement to your uber-cool meal.

Ikemen is located at 1655 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles (in Hollywood). It’s a cash-only establishment. UPDATE: Ikemen has opened a second location Downtown in Little Tokyo at 123 Astronaut E S Onizuka St. (Weller Court Shopping Center), Los Angeles. Same great dishes as Hollywood and a really cool interior.

Dragon Balls (Fried Octopus Takoyaki)

Dragon Balls (Fried Octopus Takoyaki)


Black Pork Wieners

Black Pork Wieners


Hollywood Fries with Parmesan and Truffle Oil

Hollywood Fries with Parmesan and Truffle Oil


Chasu Slider

Chasu Slider


Premium Tonkotsu Ramen with Onsen Tamago

Premium Tonkotsu Ramen with Onsen Tamago


The coolest little ramen joint in the city

The coolest little ramen joint in the city



IKEMEN Dip Ramen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Hollywood

Who Salted My Caramel?


Maybe it’s just a trend, but it seems as if in the past few years, most caramel desserts have become “salted caramel” desserts. Not that I’m complaining. I love the combination of salty and sweet. Salt enhances the rich, buttery flavor of caramel and takes it to a whole new level. Lately, I just can’t get enough of this delectable flavor. Here (in no particular order) are my ten favorite salted caramel desserts in Los Angeles:

Salted Caramel Cutie Pie from Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop

1. Salted Caramel Cutie Pie from Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop (8310 W. 3rd St, Los Angeles) This is my favorite of the dozen different miniature pies baked at Simplethings. It’s the perfect tiny dessert and I can eat a whole one in three bite. They’re available Wednesday through Saturday each week.

Salted Caramel Cupcake from Lark Cake Shop

2. Salted Caramel Cupcake from Lark Cake Shop (3337 W Sunset Blvd in Silverlake) Salted Caramel Cupcakes can be found at several bakeries in Los Angeles but this one is my favorite. It’s a moist white cake topped with an incredibly delicious not-too-sweet salted caramel frosting.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Sweet Rose Creamery

3. Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Sweet Rose Creamery (225 26th Street, Santa Monica) Sweet Rose Creamery in the Brentwood Country Mart makes some of the best small batch, artisanal ice cream in the city and Salted Caramel is my favorite flavor here. For maximum enjoyment, have them sprinkle sea salt on top.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich from Carmela Ice Cream

4. Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich from Carmela Ice Cream (2495 E. Washington Blvd, Pasadena) Carmela Ice Cream also makes amazing Salted Caramel Ice Cream; it’s one of their signature flavors. It’s especially good sandwiched between two dark chocolate cookies with sea salt sprinkled on top.

Salted Caramel Bar from Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery

5. Salted Caramel Bar from Huckleberry Cafe and Bakery (1014 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica) Dense and chewy with a delicious buttery crust, this is one of the best things on the menu at Huckleberry. It’s half candy, half pastry and the perfect companion to a latte or cappuccino.

Salted Caramel Macaron from ‘Lette Macarons

6. Salted Caramel Macaron from ‘Lette Macarons (9466 Charleville Blvd in Beverly Hills, 122 N. Larchmont Blvd in LA and 14 S. Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena) French macarons are the “it” dessert right now and ‘Lette makes amazing ones including this delicate, sweet and slightly salty beauty. C’est Magnifique!

Salted Caramel Brownie from Sweetsalt Food Shop

7. Salted Caramel Brownie from Sweetsalt Food Shop (10218 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake) With a name like “Sweetsalt,” you pretty much need to have a good salted caramel dessert and this brownie lives up to the expectation. It’s fudgy and chewy, and baked with large dollop of salted caramel.

Caramels with Maldon Sea Salt and Toasted Cashews from Sunny Spot

8. Caramels with Maldon Sea Salt and Toasted Cashews from Sunny Spot (822 Washington Blvd in Venice) You gotta love a dessert consisting simply of yummy hunks of buttery candy sprinkled with chopped cashew nuts and maldon salt. It’s the perfect decadent way to end a meal at Roy Choi’s awesome Caribbean-inspired eatery.

Salted Caramel Cookie from Olive & Thyme

9. Salted Caramel Cookie from Olive & Thyme (4013 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake) The perfect marriage of chocolate and caramel. Thick and creamy salted caramel sauce sandwiched between two delicate dark chocolate wafers, one of which has a large hole to prominently feature the salted caramel goodness.

Salted Caramel Pot de Creme from Stella Rossa Pizza Bar

10. Salted Caramel Pot de Creme from Stella Rossa Pizza Bar (2000 Main Street, Santa Monica) While Gjelina, Bottega Louie and Mozza have their Butterscotch Budinos, Stella Rossa‘s pudding is a Salted Caramel Pot de Creme. It’s outstanding and a must-have even if you think you’re too full for dessert.

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Larchmont, Mid-City, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Silverlake, Toluca Lake, Venice

I’ll Take The Fifth


While New York is a pizza city, LA is all about the burgers. Whether it’s In-N-Out, Father’s Office, Golden State, The Apple Pan or one of hundreds of other places, everyone has their favorite burger joint in this city. My favorite is Umami Burger. Named after the Japanese term for a pleasant savory taste believed to be the fifth basic taste (in addition to salty, sweet, sour and bitter), Umami Burger opened their flagship restaurant (pictured above) this week in The Grove, which is the twelfth location of the ubiquitous chain.

Having been a frequent customer at the original restaurant, I am not at all surprised by Umami Burger’s success. The food is across-the-board excellent and the basic hamburger has been elevated here to something extraordinary. The burgers are made from specially seasoned meat blends grilled rare (unless requested otherwise) and served with cheese and other toppings on signature Portuguese-style buns sweetened with milk and honey. My favorites are the spicy Hatch Burger (beef with four types of green chilies and house cheese) and the decadent Truffle Burger (beef with house-made truffle cheese and truffle glaze). There are also pork, turkey, veggie, and occasionally seafood burgers, with each location offering different specialty burgers such as the Carnitas Burger in Hollywood and the Baja Burger (tempura fried cod, crushed avocado, cabbage slaw, fire roasted salsa and chipotle lime aioli) in Hermosa Beach.

All the burgers are on the smaller size so I often order two or split an extra one with a friend. There is a restaurant policy of no substitutions, although you can delete toppings upon request. Umami Burger has amazing sides such as sweet potato fries and tempura onion rings, plus there are secret menu items including truffle cheese fries and cheesy tater tots. Most locations serve beer and wine, and some have a full bar. For dessert, there are ice cream sandwiches and delicious treats from Cake Monkey Bakery such as Cherry Almond Pie and a Peanut Butter & Marshmallow Cakewich.

The new flagship Umami Burger is located in The Grove at 189 The Grove Dr., Los Angeles (Mid-City). The original location is at 850 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles (Mid-City). There are other locations in Hermosa Beach, Studio City, Santa Monica, Los Feliz, Hollywood and Thousand Oaks. UPDATE: SGVers rejoice! Umami Burger is now in Pasadena at 49 E. Colorado Blvd. Their specialty burger is the Le Cordon Bleu Burger, named after Pasadena’s famous culinary school.

The Hatch Burger

The Hatch Burger


The Umami Burger

The Umami Burger


The Grove Truffle Burger

The Grove Truffle Burger


Truffled Poutine Burger

Truffled Poutine Burger


Truffle Cheese Fries from the secret menu

Truffle Cheese Fries from the secret menu


Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries


Cake Monkey Cherry Almond Pie

Cake Monkey Cherry Almond Pie


Umami Valli

Umami Valli



Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon
Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Hermosa Beach, Hollywood, Los Feliz, Mid-City, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Studio City, Thousand Oaks

The Food Was Still Moving On My Plate

Here’s a video of the wriggling “live” octopus I consumed in Koreatown. The octopus is not giving up without a fight, its little suction cups clamping on to the plate, making it difficult to pickup with my chopsticks. Sesame oil has been poured over its cut pieces and this appears to anger the octopus and causes it to squirm even more. Finally getting a piece into my mouth, I find it chewy but fresh — extremely fresh. I think to myself: I am a culinary thrill seeker, a badass food adventurer!

This “live” octopus dish (aka Sannakji) was the highlight of a live seafood dinner I enjoyed with eight intrepid friends at Chung Hae Jin a couple weeks ago. The dinner also featured live abalone, sea snails and a lot of raw fish. There were a couple cooked dishes including Hong Hap Tang (mussel soup) and tempura, and of course a lot of soju (which is similar to vodka) and Korean beer. Aside from the octopus, my favorite dish was raw lobster, which tasted very similar to the raw sweet shrimp they have at higher end sushi bars. But, sad to say, on the whole, I didn’t love the food at Chung Hae Jin. I’ve had much better sashimi elsewhere and despite my love of Korean food and anything unusual, I didn’t care for many of the dishes. Also, the service was exceptionally bad. Nevertheless, it was a fun dinner because of the exotic nature of the meal and the wiggling, wriggling food.

Chung Hae Jin is located at 3470 W. 6th Street, Los Angeles (in Koreatown).

NOTE TO MY READERS CONCERNED ABOUT THE OCTOPUS: Although widely referred to as “live” octopus, it was actually dead when served to us. It moves because its nerves remain active after death.

See warning at bottom: eat at your own risk!


Raw Lobster


Sea Snails


Live Abalone


Sashimi Salad


Hand Rolls


Sashimi Boat


Appetizing?


Should I be worried that they only have a “B”?

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Filed under Koreatown