Tag Archives: miles clements

Back in the L.A. Times: Doya Doya’s Okonomiyaki

The pleasures of a late-night taco are a defining L.A. experience, a few bites of food constructed seemingly to sate whatever urge drove you to some no-name truck in the first place. But if I could replace even a handful of the city’s countless taco trucks with carts or stalls or itinerate vehicles of some kind cooking up Japanese okonomiyaki, I wouldn’t hesitate. Thankfully, there’s Doya Doya in Torrance, which caught my eye for the L.A. Times last month.

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Orange County’s Ultimate Mexican Food Guide

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Apropos of Orange Coast‘s previous look at the best Asian food in Orange County is my somewhat belated recognition of the magazine’s guide to the county’s best Mexican food. Many fantastic tacos, tamales, chilaquiles and pounds of carnitas were consumed for this, but I know I (and I trust fellow writer Gretchen Kurz) would surely do it again. Read more here.

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Global Diner Recap


PHOTO by PRISCILLA IEZZI / ORANGE COAST

The good eats for Orange Coast Magazine keep on coming. There’s ramen in the column’s future, but here are three recent looks at Orange County’s ever-fascinating international food scene.

First, grab a slice of pizza-like manakeesh in Anaheim’s Little Arabia. Then belly up to a bowl of bibimbap, the Korean rice classic. Finish up with the constellation of Indian small plates called a thali.

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Global Diner: Anepalco’s Cafe’s Chilaquiles


PHOTO by PRISCILLA IEZZI / ORANGE COAST

The October issue of Orange Coast marks the debut of my new column, Global Diner. Each month I’ll be examining an outstanding international dish among Orange County’s vast expanse of mom-and-pop and hole-in-the-wall restaurants. This time, it’s the spectacular chilaquiles at Anepalco’s Cafe in Orange:

Chef Danny Godinez’s dish is a marvel: The fried mass of tortillas is formed into a thin cake, topped with a fluffy omelet and dressed with avocado mousse, pico de gallo, crema, and sprinkles of cotija cheese. It’s surrounded by a pool of brilliant brick-red sauce that tastes of smoky, toasted chilies. The tiny Main Street cafe serves an equally good second version, chilaquiles verdes, made with a tomatillo-based sauce and sprinkled with a scattering of pumpkin seeds. Both iterations are precisely prepared, their contrasting flavors and textures balanced in every bite.

Read the rest here.

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Recap: L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade Brings Out the Culinary Stars


PHOTO by JENNIFER BASTIAN

It would’ve taken a superhuman appetite to try everything at the third-annual L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, which packed nearly 40 chefs and even more bartenders, brewers and vintners onto the lawn of historic Culver Studios. But that didn’t stop some 1,200 attendees from trying. Between ticket sales and some luxurious auction items, over $500,000 was raised for childhood cancer research—L.A. Loves Alex’s is by far the city’s best culinary event with a conscience.


PHOTO by JENNIFER BASTIAN

Donald Link (Herbsaint and Cochon) brought with him the flavors of Louisiana: a cool black-eyed pea salad, a knob of excellent Cajun sausage and a hunk of boudin turgid with rice and pork. Whereas many of the day’s plates seemed only like festival-sized bites, Link’s felt like a fully formed dish, a complete Cajun meal downsized only to accommodate the bacchanal.  Continue reading

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Orange County’s Ultimate Asian Dining Guide

There could be a dozen dissertations on the various Asian cuisines of Orange County, a topic so vast that it’s all but impossible to condense it into a single magazine feature. But for this month’s issue of Orange Coast, I (along with longtime Orange Coast writer Gretchen Kurz) embarked on just that task. What resulted is, I think, a pretty impressive accomplishment–a definitive guide to old-school pho joints, rare Okinawan izakayas, Taiwanese dessert parlors and so much more. Pick one up today.

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Sunny Spot’s Caribbean State of Mind


SALT COD BRANDADE BENEDICT

In that fleeting moment when the ocean air still hangs thick over Venice before dissolving into a golden haze, the city slows to still life. Cars shudder to a stop, gulls flap fruitlessly against the wind and waves fall silently upon the shore. At Sunny Spot, the six-month-old restaurant from Kogi mastermind Roy Choi and Westside impresario David Reiss, that moment is meant to last forever, a picture both of California cool and Caribbean fantasy. This is where you come to imagine those wasted days on a white-sand beach, a slug of rum and a plate of jerk chicken your only itinerary.

Sunny Spot is Choi’s first restaurant that doesn’t directly deal with his cosmopolitan vision of the Angeleno appetite. Back in 2008 when Kogi’s bulgogi tacos and kimchi quesadillas sent legions groaning hungrily into the night, Choi created a cuisine that perhaps more accurately reflected Los Angeles than a census ever could. Choi didn’t simply capture the city’s zeitgeist; he became it.

It wouldn’t be wrong to attribute that success to a providential sense of good timing. But there’s also something to Choi’s fanciful cooking. His dishes at Kogi as well as Chego and A-Frame often feel as if they’re composed with a kind of surrealist automatism, flavors extracted from the culinary subconscious and assembled on the plate without any measure of restraint. What results is sometimes sloppy and not always successful, but it often is exactly what Angelenos want to eat.

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The Sweet Life: L.A.’s Southeast Asian Dessert Diaspora


PHOTO by RICARDO DEARATANHA / L.A. TIMES

In Los Angeles, where international cuisines are examined with the rigor of sociological study, dessert is often a dish born under a foreign flag. There are those who lust after the cinnamon-dusted ridges of freshly fried churros, others who long for the ephemeral sakura-wrapped mochi available only during cherry blossom season. But whether it’s by willful avoidance or total unfamiliarity, Southeast Asian sweets have yet to earn that same admiration.

Bhan Kanom Thai, meanwhile, is a rainbow rush of colors: Fresh mango glistening the brilliant orange of a late-summer sun, glutinous rice balls glowing a radiant pandan green, tender taro cakes blooming the same piercing purple as a field of lilacs. The Hollywood favorite is a den of overstimulation, its shelves stuffed with Thai desserts alive with vivid colors, focused flavors and foreign textures. To a particular set of Los Angeles diners, the sweet shop is an essential experience. Yet even as Southeast Asian flavors move from places like Thai Town and Little Saigon and into the mainstream, the region’s diverse desserts remain largely unknown, tropical curiosities far more complex than a simple batch of banana fritters. Across greater Los Angeles, however, are countless examples of these sweets, a vast dessert diaspora as varied and unique as the ingredients and cultures that comprise each confection.

Nearly every Southeast Asian nation is represented in Los Angeles’ own sprawling geography: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. These are the very same sweets found on the streets of Bangkok and Jakarta and Manila. Here, they’re imported by former culinary school instructors and avid cooks no longer confined to borrowed kitchens, by expatriates recreating tastes of home and younger generations now carrying on those traditions.

Southeast Asian sweets have even gone upscale. At restaurants like Lukshon, Red Medicine and the Spice Table, dessert draws inspiration from the region’s honeyed heritage: pearls of palm sugar boba, dollops of avocado and coconut creams, strata of thick kaffir lime custard. It’s an evolution in Los Angeles’ appetite, one finally primed to embrace Southeast Asia’s sweet side.

Read my Southeast Asian dessert picks at the L.A. Times.

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The South By Barbecue Tour

Everyone waits in line at Franklin Barbecue: Austinites making their weekly pilgrimages, daytrippers traveling along the Texas barbecue trail, even Anthony Bourdain. It’s an inglorious task, a tortuous crawl in which you’re taunted by the scent of smoldering oak and the sight of those lucky few already sucking the meat from a set of pork spare ribs. Those at the front of the line likely arrived no later than 8 A.M.–a full three hours before Franklin opens its doors.

But there’s community in the chaos. Blankets are unfurled, lawn chairs are unfolded and stories are shared. The camaraderie of the line is overwhelming, a testament to the pacifying power of Franklin’s otherworldly barbecue.

Brisket is what you want here. At the counter, Aaron Franklin (or perhaps his barbecue partner John Louis) will offer slices of either lean or fatty brisket. There’s no wrong choice, but you’ve waited too long not to indulge in those glorious fatty cuts. This is brisket at the point of sublimation, beef so perfectly and thoroughly smoked that it barely exists in solid form. Franklin’s pork spare ribs may also be some of the best you’ve ever tasted, thick slabs of meat that peel from the bone with unimaginable ease.

Still, rigid traditionalists might point you away from Franklin, maybe to Louie Mueller in Taylor, TX or some combination of Smitty’s Market and Kreuz Market in Lockhart, TX. Smitty’s has the history–a charming old building so blackened by barbecue that you can practically scrape the smoke off the walls–but Franklin has the goods. The sausage at Smitty’s is indeed excellent, yet nothing there truly approaches the ethereal barbecue at Franklin, a place that shatters even the most outsized expectations of Texas barbecue.

Franklin Barbecue, 900 E. 11th St., Austin, TX, (512) 653-1187, franklinbarbecue.com
Smitty’s Market, 208 South Commerce, Lockhart, TX, (512) 398-9344, smittysmarket.com.

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Leftovers: Little La Lune

A new wave of Cambodian cooking for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by GARY FRIEDMAN / L.A. TIMES

In Long Beach’s Cambodia Town, restaurants are measured not only by the heat of their ground pork curries or the tartness of their sour catfish soups but also by the brilliance of their chandeliers and the strength of their karaoke-capable sound systems. For years, La Lune was such a place, a restaurant where birthday parties were celebrated, anniversaries were commemorated and mayoral campaigns were launched.

But in April, a fire wiped out La Lune. Losing the restaurant tore open a void in the Khmer community, one that the Saing family worked quickly to fill. Now La Lune has been refined and reborn as Little La Lune, a small-scale spinoff in a quiet strip mall with ambitions beyond its downsized dining room. Little La Lune isn’t simply leveraging its legacy; the restaurant represents a new wave, a contemporary Cambodian cafe designed for a new generation.

Little La Lune is a picture of Modernism. A bouquet of pendant lamps casts columns of light onto wine-red walls. Radiant white booths glow with a halo of backlighting. It’s a stark contrast to Cambodia Town’s biggest banquet halls, where decades-old dining rooms remain unchanged, as if being preserved for historical study. Little La Lune’s menu too has been recalibrated. Gone are the hallmarks of the banquet kitchen: no hulking lobster tails, no caldrons of Cantonese-style soup, no oversize platters of dessert. The menu instead has been pared down to the most approachable essentials.

Read the rest here.

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