Monthly Archives: May 2009

Leftovers: Torihei

Excellent yakitori and Kyoto-style oden for the LA Times:


PHOTO by STEFANO PALTERA / LA TIMES

There’s a distinct division in Torihei’s kitchen. At one end, a huge pot of dashi broth sits just below a boil as it seethes a continuous cloud of steam. Opposite the pot, skewers cook with a low, gratifying hiss on a crackling charcoal grill. The kitchen partitions its duties, but not its vision — Torihei is the collaborative effort of chefs Masataka Hirai and Masakazu Sasaki.

The pair, each tasked with working half the restaurant’s double-edged menu, has created an inseparable combination of yakitori and simple, soupy oden. The Torrance restaurant’s edible union can be traced all the way back to Japan, where Hirai’s family operates like-minded restaurants in Tokyo and Yokohama.

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Leftovers: El Taco Loco No. 3

Plenty of buche and tripas for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

As with the proliferation of any foodstuff (think pizza, for one), the omnipresence of the taco has diminished its own street-level existence. What should be a quick, thoughtful fast food—tortillas pressed from fresh masa, mounds of carefully spiced meats—has instead devolved, too often leaning on low-budget fillings and prepackaged tortillas. A superb taquería is central to a Californian existence, and El Taco Loco is as honest as they come.

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Photos: Holland Festival

Some shots from Sunday’s Holland Festival in Long Beach, which was more a celebration of Indonesian street food than anything. A more complete recap is on its way.

Update: Full thoughts are up at the Daily Dish.

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Leftovers: Panvimarn

New Thai on the block for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Panvimarn shines brightest in the afternoon sun, its glistening golden décor appearing like the gilded interior of a jewelry box. And during these lengthened days of soon-to-be-summer, the restaurant is even more precious, with its carefully contemporary atmosphere transformed into a palatial setting that fosters a different class of Thai cooking.

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To Do: Holland Festival

If Indonesian cuisine is underrepresented in Southern California (locally available in Bellflower, Westwood, Rowland Heights and few places in between), true Dutch dishes are even more rare. That Dutch cooking shares some pastoral traits with the rest of continental Europe doesn’t help, either—its dairy-dedicated recipes often don’t do enough to separate themselves from like-minded neighbors. But the Netherlands American Society’s Holland Festival is out to celebrate the low-lying cuisine and its colonial counterpart. Now in its 20th year, the festival isn’t all about food—there’s arts, crafts, kid-friendly entertainment and live music, too. But it’s nevertheless set on presenting some of the cornerstones of the Dutch culinary tradition. The festival’s most trumpeted dish is probably its herring, which is apparently being flown in straight from the Netherlands. Second in the hierarchy is bitterballen, a plate of fried beef balls that share the same spherical look as falafel. Indonesia’s own unique cuisine (absorbed into Dutch culture during a bout of imperialism) will also be in attendance, packed with tropical tastes that still influence Dutch cooking (some bitterballen recipes even call for curry). Expect charred sate and ideally a few portable packages of nasi bungkus. And because no food festival is complete without alcohol, Heineken will also be on tap.

20TH ANNUAL HOLLAND FESTIVAL POLICE OFFICERS ASSOCIATION PARK | 7390 CARSON ST | LONG BEACH 90808 | NASSOCAL.ORG/ANNOUNCEMENTS/HOLLAND_FESTIVAL.HTML | SUN 10AM-6PM | $8

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Leftovers: Fresh Foods Café

Business casual for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Hours in the office don’t quite suppress an appetite, but they sure stifle it—hunger blunted and bludgeoned by the electric hum of copiers and computers and fluorescent lights. By the time your brain sends out enough signals to remind itself that you’ve skipped breakfast and typed right through the afternoon, chances are you’ll turn to the freezer (and thus the microwave) before any health-conscious concerns cross your protein-deprived mind. But Fresh Foods Café wants to change that.

Lodged in the back of the Catalina Landing complex, the restaurant is one clearly designed with business on the brain. There’s no denying that the surrounding cluster of awkward office space and the restaurant’s weekday-only hours cater to a suit-and-tie crowd, so much so that Fresh Foods Café might go unknown if it weren’t for its smart additions of downtown delivery and online ordering.

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Leftovers: Phnom Penh Noodle

25 years of noodles for the District:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Despite decades along Anaheim Street, Khmer cooking lacks the traction of some of its Southeast-Asian neighbors. Without a defining dish with which to colonize the American appetite (think of the crusty portability of banh mi or the spaghetti-like ubiquity of pad thai), Cambodian cuisine often feels overly foreign. But what can at times seem impenetrable—plates scattered with unknown herbs and preparations that have no Western analogs—is presented so plainly at Phnom Penh Noodle that it’s not just accessible, it’s endearing.

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To Do: LA BBQ Festival


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

Smokers are welcome again in Santa Monica on May 9 and 10 when Drink:Eat:Play‘s 2nd annual LA BBQ Festival sets up just north of the pier. Aside from some local representatives (Baby Blues, Gus’s, Mr. Cecil’s), expect pitmasters from as far away as Texas, Missouri, Illinois and beyond. There’ll be beer (of course), bands and more. Tickets are $10.

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