Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guisado on Cesar Chavez Avenue

Today, Angelene Campuzano introduced me to a place that opened about a year ago. It's an upscale taco place called Guisado and is located at 2100 E. Cesar Chavez Avenue, LA CA 90033 in East LA. Wow, great tacos. Angelene recommended the Taco Sampler Plate. Mini tacos, with hand made thick mini corn tortillas. Each topping is a unique mix of tastes using choice meats, chorizo, sauteed chickens, mole or al pastors. It's a small plate with small tacos but it really fills you up. About an hour later I was "muy" lethargic. The jamaica was delicious; not too sweet, cold and rich with hibiscus. I also ordered the chicken mole tamale. Tender, solid and rich. So I'm definitely going back soon. It's an upscale but affordable spin to the taco experience.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

BCD Tofu House on Western

Koreatown has a lot of soon tofu places. This one is a chain. Another BCD is that 24-7 on Wilshire near Normandie. This one is in a mini mall on Western and is smaller and more mini-mall-ish. I ordered the seafood soon tofu, spicy. The bancha was a little bit more minimal than most places but they had that fried salty fish I love. The soon tofu was great and perfect for the rainy weather we've been having. The service was great but there was this woman across the room who either was eating at one of the tables or wandered in who started cursing at the servers and eventually left. So a great lunch and some theater for $9. That's a good deal in Hollywood. BCD Tofu House is located at 869 S Western Ave, LA CA 90005

Compari's Pizza and Italian on Centinela

Yesterday was my daughter's birthday. We had a family dinner the night before for her so when I picked her up from her High School basketball practice, I thought it would be nice to take her out to dinner with her coaches, who have been so supportive through out her four years at Culver City HS. One of the coaches recommended Compari's Pizza and Italian at 5490 W. Centinela Ave, Los Angeles CA 90045. I had never been there and of course that's always a determining factor when trying to decide where to go eat. Compari's was small, familiar, dimly lit and old school. I ordered the Lobster Ravioli, a small Cesar Salad and we shared a Tiramisu. The ravioli was al dente, thick pasta shell, cooked to that smooth texture and the lobster was chunky and the tomato sauce was creamy. The side bread was exceptional with lots of butter and garlic but the toasty crust vs the tender hot middle was perfect. I can't believe I'd never been there before. It's on that part of Centinela that spans under the 405 and shoots around the south-east back of Fox Hills Mall or Westfield or whatever that's called now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen in Little Tokyo

I haven't seen artist Jeffrey James Mohr as regularly as I used to but the last three times I had, he always asks if I'd been to Shin Sen Gumi Hakata Ramen in Little Tokyo yet. It's on Central between First and Second Street where Izoya used to be. When you walk in, a choreographed chorus of "welcomes" in Japanese attack you. If you aren't ready for it, it can be alarming. This is not a quite dining experience because every time a customer enters, exits, pays the bill, orders and receives their meal, a chorus of declarations or rather an update of your experience is vocalized by the entire staff. At first, I was taken aback but then I began to realize that it's an audible symbol of their intentions; the design of this particular ramen eating experience. I ordered the Hakata Ramen with a side of BBQ Ribs and roasted garlic. The sides come separately. When you add them to the ramen, the various ingredients have more of a chance to retain their individualism.

Theatrics aside, this is a really wonderful ramen place. The food is excellent. You have choices; the "cooked" ness of the noodles, the broth's intensity, and tons of additional ingredients to add to your base ramen meal. Thanks for the recommendation Jeffe!

Cal Poly Pomona Kellogg's Hotel Cafeteria

The Kellogg's Family, the one's famous for the cereal brand, sponsored the Cal Poly Pomona Kellogg's Hotel at Cal Poly Pomona University in Pomona CA. I went to visit friends Marta Perlas and Kipp Kobayashi, who teach at the universities architecture department and for lunch, much in the spirit of Denise Brown and Robert Venturi, decided to venture into the cafeteria. No promises where made about the place and the food was heavily downplayed but there was an implied campiness we were anticipating. like that Vegas study. True to form. The hotel is where visiting professors and lecturers stay. The cafeteria is a modest attempt for these academics culinary needs. There were little choices. By the time we arrived, around 12:40 PM, there were about six guests eating. The salmon was swimming in it's stainless steel bin, so too the baked chicken, there was coffee, cream of asparagus, salad, lime and chocolate cakes. "Oh, it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be". It reminded me of Sara Lee products. Visually spot on but highly processed and preserved; digestible and 100%$ Americana. I'm not entirely sure what to say about this place but it was truly a unique experience.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oshogatsu 2012

A belated Happy New Year to everyone. I wanted to share some images of my families Oshogatsu, the Japanese ala LA-hybrid we do each year. It's only immediate family, which is basically sixteen or so people in the course of an afternoon. It's fun, familiar and annual. In the past couple of years, my aunt and uncle, who had a business in Vegas, moved in with us. Part of the national or international economic breakdown, they now live with us within this 1913 triplex. I guess it's more like my aunt has returned, because this house, that my grandparents left us, is the architectural axis of our family. It's where all my mother's siblings grew up, having immigrated to LA in the 50's. 2011, was a rough year for many on so faceted fronts. I really pray, a well as a pagan can, that 2012 is much brighter of an experience for all of us because that year was uber-crazy!!!!

L'Epicerie Market in Culver City

I really, REALLY wanted to like this place. It's a new-ish French restaurant/market on the first floor of a office development in Culver City CA. L'Epicerie Market is located at 9900 Culver Blvd, Culver City CA 90232. The interior is well designed with a really wonderful but small market area filled with patte's, macaroons, wines, etc. I ordered the L'Epicerie Breakfast which consists of eggs with arugula and salmon and my daughter ordered the chocolate chip pancakes. I ate the eggs but they left me with a highly salty after taste, so much so that I couldn't really taste any of the ingredients. At the end of the meal, my daughter's plate was 2/3 untouched. I asked if she liked her pancakes (sarcastic inquiry). She gave me one of those funny faces and I tried a taste. GUNPOWDER. Two years ago, I had surgery for sleep apnea. Long story short, I lost the use of my taste buds for six weeks. A lot of things had the sensation of gunpowder, which is what these pancakes reminded me off. I mean, it was so bad she and I were laughing. I wrote this fact on the comment section of our bill. I wonder if they read it? BUT, if you're looking for gunpowder pancakes, this is your place. They do it well.

Renaissance Club Sport Hotel Bar, Walnut Creek CA

The second to final evening of our stay in Walnut Creek, after the team went to bed, the parents and friends gathered in the Renaissance Club Sport Hotel Bar. The following is my taste test of various gins (Gin and Tonic):
Tanquery, robust, distinguished, like a fun date
Hendrix, understated, simple, nice but not real nice
Sapphire, stealth, smooth, multilevel experience
Plymouth, underwhelming, like a plausible story lacking luster

House of Sake in Walnut Creek CA

I was driving around on my first day in WC, scouting for places to eat near our hotel and my eye super focused on a sign that said House of Sake. They are located at 313 North Civic Drive, Walnut Creek CA 94596, 925-930-8811. So, when I saw that sign, the understated design, the little building receded into the property, I had extremely high hopes for this place. I was envisioning an assortment of fine sake; rows of bottles, some not even labeled, chilled, with those little cards in front of each bottle rating it's sweetness or dryness. Well, we did go and when I walked in and sat down with our entourage, I quickly started to realize that this was actually a family restaurant, run by folks who didn't know anything about sake. YIKES! My first clue was when I called to make reservations and they had a hard time spelling my last name. Ha ha! So they come to take our drink order and I sheepishly ask if they have any dry sake. They came back with a small little bottle, the type you buy in the coin machines in Japan. OUCH! The food is decent but not incredible. It's kind of like the iHop of Japanese food. It is was it is. I really think they should change the name of the restaurant, though.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rocco's Pizzeria in Walnut Creek CA

One of the players on my daughter's HS basketball team had a birthday while we were there for the West Coast Jamboree Basketball Tournament. One night after a game, our army of players, coaches and parents went to Rocco's Pizzeria to celebrate her B-Day. Rocco's is located at 2909 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek CA 925-947-6105. The place is a decent size restaurant. Before we were seated in the back, we had to wait a while outside, where it was in the mid 30's. Kind of cold for us Angelenos. Once in, the place was packed and full of local energy. Some of us complained about the service but i found it to be very decent, considering there were so many of us and that they were very busy. I especially appreciated that they graciously changed our wide screen TV from the Golden State game to the Laker's game. Try doing that in LA. I ordered a pizza called the Dominator. This pizza is filled with pepperoni, salami, mushrooms, ham, sausage and onions. I could not finish it, even though I ordered a small. I brought half of it back to the hotel for breakfast, which I still needed to share it with some of my daughter's friends. It was so delicious and even better the next morning. I'm glad my room had a fridge.