Monthly Archives: February 2009

Leftovers: Long Beach Fish Grill

Simple fish from the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Somewhere between the restaurants that source their seafood from Tsukiji and those that shake loose a few filets from a cardboard box is a whole culinary gulf where the ocean isn’t even an option. This middle ground is a barren place populated by kitchens that would rather serve a dozen dull sliders than risk a single plate of fish. Long Beach Fish Grill, however, fills that void with ease, cooking up seafood so simple it’s borderline bold.

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Leftovers: Feng Mao

Koreatown’s yang rou chuan specialist from today’s L.A. Times:


PHOTO by MICHAEL ROBINSON CHAVEZ / L.A. TIMES

Tiny flecks of fire jump from Feng Mao’s tabletop grills. They’re unpredictable at first, but as the embers slowly brighten to white-hot, the flames calm down. Once the entire dining room gets cooking, the Koreatown restaurant fills with a familiar scent: a meaty smoke that works its way into the very fibers of your clothes.

But Feng Mao isn’t a typical Korean restaurant. In fact, it’s merely a hyphenated one, a months-old Korean-Chinese restaurant that’s adapting its recipes to an eight-table space on Olympic Boulevard.

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Recession Bust-ing

The Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in Maine is testing out whether sex still sells even during a recession. Some choice quotes from the Kennebec Journal:

  • The outside windows were covered with promotional posters for New England Coffee. Up the entrance ramp to the front door, another sign: “Over 18 only” — and another at the door: “No cameras, no touching, cash only.” A man in a white dress shirt kept watch at the front door.
  • On Tuesday, inside were three topless women, one topless man and owner Donald Crabtree in a dress shirt and tie. Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” was playing.
  • “I really hope it works,” Dick Brochu said of the business. “It’s different. I kind of like it. If you don’t like it, I say don’t come in, stay away.”
  • Implying that criticism of the coffee shop has been overblown, Rene Brochu said, “The evil is in your head.”
  • Crabtree said he does not pay his staff a regular wage; all their earnings come from customer tips, mostly ranging from $5 to $20.
  • On Tuesday morning, Kelley brought coffee to a male customer, who gulped down about half of the cup during a couple minutes, handed Kelley a $100 bill and left without saying a word.
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    Leftovers: Church & State

    Breaking away from the brasserie pack downtown:


    PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

    Church & State is the odd bistro out in L.A.’s recent brasserie boom – an uncomplicated place that fits downtown’s still-indelicate fringe. While Anisette, for example, pursues Old World grandeur, Church & State monopolizes modernity. It’s a methodically simple restaurant spread out on the ground floor of the Biscuit Company lofts, where it brings the rest of downtown right inside. Its bare brick floors, strings of slumping lights and Skullphone paste-ups approximate the atmosphere of an alleyway as much as an ornate bistro.

    But as the least formal of the brasserie pack, Church & State remains undervalued. That neglect might derive from the fact that under its opening chef, the food simply fell a little flat. Or perhaps it stems from attached restaurateur Steven Arroyo – eaters may have been worried that the restaurant was quietly working to become yet another Cobras & Matadors. Whatever the cause, Church & State is now disproving doubters. Walter Manzke, formerly of Bastide, has the kitchen fulfilling its promise. Now, Church & State is on the ascent. It’s a genuine French bistro all the way down to the bone marrow.

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    To Do: Where the Good Things Are

    2009-lls-handout-q1

    The Santa Monica Farmers Market presents a night of food philosophy from its “Where the Good Things Are” series. The February 26 event focuses on how to deliver fresh produce from farm to fork and will be moderated by Evan Kleinman of KCRW’s Good Food. Guests are set to include a pair of farmers and buyers as well as chef Michael Cimarusti of Providence. (Cimarusti will be also serving some quick market-sourced bites afterwards.) The talk kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be held free of charge at the Santa Monica Public Library at 601 Santa Monica Blvd. Visit smpl.org or smgov.net/farmers_market for details.

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    Leftovers: La Chiva Loca

    Drowned sandwiches from this week’s District:


    PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

    These are the wet weeks of the California winter, a time in the state’s single season when morning mist gathers on your hair like dew on grass and when even the driest roads can suddenly become rain-slicked crash courses. Within this short window of weather, appetites actually shift as we turn to steaming soups for some solace during these waterlogged times. But bisques and stews won’t sustain you alone. Thankfully, Downey’s La Chiva Loca is dedicated to the torta ahogada, a sandwich that provides a completely different way to get warm.

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    Leftovers: Wurstküche

    In CityBeat this week: 


    PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

    There’s a swell of sound pouring out of Wurstküche – a steady hum of conversations all rushing together into a wave. It seeps out onto downtown streets from somewhere beyond the restaurant’s skinny hallway, a concrete and brick corridor that’s as reminiscent of the Smell rock club as it is any of the modern lofts nearby. But by the time you get close enough to sift out the voices, there’s something new underneath: the hiss of dozens of sausages sizzling on Wurstküche’s grill.

    In its early months – and with construction carrying on well past its opening – Wurstküche had little room in which to build a reputation. Forced to operate out of the cramped quarters around the cash register, the restaurant felt like a cave – hungry people rubbing chilly hands and staring at flesh on a fire. Now, however, Wurstküche is complete – its creature comforts evolved to include a backroom bar where its sausages (and the slurred conversations that accompany them) have the kind of beer-garden atmosphere they deserve.

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    Leftovers: Tantalizingly Thai

    Regional plates from this week’s District:


    PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

    Like orange chicken and the California roll before it, pad Thai has been folded right into the American appetite, a dish so popular it’s now the barometer by which many measure all those Thai restaurants copied and pasted into every overbuilt strip mall. Consume enough of the stuff and you’ll be able to spot a hackneyed rendition from across the room: a wet mess drowned in a sauce as shockingly red as ketchup. But pad Thai only weeds out the worst Americanized Thai food—there isn’t a single dish that does the same for Thailand’s countless regional cuisines.

    In Long Beach’s corner of the county, the dishes of northeastern Thailand reign. Influenced by the porous culinary borders shared with Laos and Cambodia, northeastern Thailand’s cuisine is distinct from its central and southern counterparts. And as a result, even after decades of snowballing popularity, its flavors are still sometimes too foreign to assign only one representative plate. At Cerritos’ Thai Issan, for example, the defining dish is sai krok, a slightly sour pork sausage lit up by galangal, kaffir lime leaf and lemon grass. Norwalk’s venerable Renu Nakorn, meanwhile, is best when under the influence of the heavy scent of jackfruit curry. Tantalizingly Thai in Lakewood, however, isn’t as easily encapsulated.

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    Street Meat at Pondok Kaki Lima

    After an abrupt closure back in August, Pondok Kaki Lima, Duarte’s pop-up Indonesian food fest, is back. The mini-bazaar sets up shop in the parking lot of the Duarte Inn every Saturday, an amazingly unassuming location fitting for a city where the freeways end and the mountains begin. Roughly a half-dozen vendors cook at Pondok Kaki Lima, each usually specializing in a few specific Indonesian dishes, though there’s also plenty of overlap between the stalls. There are multiple renditions of pastels (empanada-like turnovers filled with bean thread noodles, hard-boiled egg, carrots, peas and chicken) and combo plates like nasi bungkus, but it’s best to make a beeline for Ambrosius, the apparent “champ” of pork sate. On the last drizzly Saturday, Ambrosius was the only one manning a barbecue, each rack packed to capacity with the skewers. And his sate plate (accompanied above by the compressed rice cakes known as lontongI) bore the best of the barbecue–meat over a flame is as basic as it gets, but Ambrosius’ skewers are as good as they get.

    Pondok Kaki Lima, behind the Duarte Inn, 1200 Huntington Dr, Duarte. Every Saturday 10am-2pm.

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    Leftovers: So Hyang

    Eating the upper-reaches of Koreatown:


    PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

    Out on the business end of Koreatown, where Wilshire high-rises block out the sun and serious restaurants fade to fast food, So Hyang sits just out of sight. The restaurant is buried under the Equitable Trade building, a ground-level space hidden behind a concrete wall that amplifies every breeze into wardrobe-rustling gusts. Even without the usual weekday bustle, the restaurant is tough to find. But once you learn how to navigate the plaza, So Hyang reveals itself as a different kind of Korean restaurant.

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