Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Maggi Christmas & Mexico

Nothing says 'Christmas' to me more than receiving a fine bottle of my most favorite sauce in the world – Maggi Sauce. J's mom gave me what I thought was a wine bottle in a bag. But upon lifting it out, I saw the red (usually yellow) cap I've become all too familiar with. This one is from Germany! And you know what, it tastes totally different than the U.S. version. Now I can add this German edition to my collection of Maggi sauce from the U.S., Switzerland, Poland (thanks Erik) and the Phillipines. Woohoo. If you guys know of any other foreign editions, please let me know where I can find them. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all that have laid eyes on this site. Thank you for your support and a year of solid readership. I couldn't be more happy. J & I are off to Mexico!!!

And I've got this bathing suit in 5 different neon colors, ready to go.
Read more!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Tacos Baja Ensenada & Siete Mares - An Analysis on A Few Los Angeles Fish Taco Joints

Here at the eatdrinknbmerry laboratories, we strive for accuracy in gastronomical studies and never stop searching for the tastiest, palate-pleasing food. While most people are too quick to voice opinions on food without really trying any other place with the same type of food, we find it important to provide our take on as many places as possible. Saying bold things like "hands down", "the best in (insert geographical area)" and mean things like "you've got no f_____ tastebuds" can often lead to some pretty heated discussions that could trigger off another LA riot – those are simply unnecessary. People have the right to like what they like right?

At eatdrinknbmerry laboratories, we try to break down food to its simple components. Well not too much, otherwise we wouldn't have anything to eat.
We are human, too, and enjoy stuffing our faces.

And if necessary, we will dig deep... really deep, and get into it.

In this latest experiment, Case Study #32168, we focus on the fish tacos of Los Angeles and try to find the best ones, without having to drive the 48,328 miles to Ensenada, where fish tacos were born. We first decided to study fish tacos after a friendly recommendation to The Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, in Los Feliz. I, myself, have driven by many times on the way to Yuca's and have been taken back by the bold name. But after the first time I decided to stop by, I'm up to a dozen visits. I can honestly say, I'm hooked. Instead of writing a post solely on BFTIE, we researched the local favorites on Chowhound and gave them a shot. Here is our report.

Tacos Baja Ensenada East Los Angeles

Subject #1: Tacos Baja Ensenada, East Los Angeles

I've heard and read about this fish taco joint in the East LA proper. It's supposedly one of the better places in LA. I drove from Silver Lake to East LA by street just to check out all the restaurants around there. We were like kids in a toy store, pointing and pondering about how good the food must be over here. We arrive at TBE, which looks like it was a hamburger joint in its previous life. We walk in and the first thing we see is the ceviche bar and salsa station. I take a look at the ceviche and my eyes grow large. Whoa. So many kinds of seafood for ceviche and cocteles. No. Not this time, we had to research the fish tacos. We order 2 fish ($1.45 each) and 2 shrimp ($1.95 each) tacos but the cashier directs our attention to the combos. What?! Two fish tacos, rice, beans and a drink for $4.50. Awesome. How do you guys live?

Tacos Baja Ensenada Chilis with Chile

While waiting, J and I started to get our fish taco condiments: salsa and limes. But I noticed some boiled yellow peppers rained on with chile spice. Afraid it would be too spicy, I took a small lick and oh man, so good. Reminded me of that mexican candy I used to eat, called Lucas – which was basically chile salt (a big seller for ice cream roach coaches). I ate two large yellow chiles. So tasty.

Tacos Baja Ensenada Fish Tacos

After a few minutes, we pick up our order and take in the smell of freshly fried batter. The taco itself is quite large. Large enough to have things falling out after one bite. First bite: CRUNCH. Very nice, loved the texture of the batter. Tasty and crunchy. But way too much batter for me. The crema sauce was very tasty and the proportion of salsa/cabbage to taco was a little more than packed. One of these combos is sure to get you full. FOR ONLY $4.50!

Tacos Baja Ensenada Shrimp Taco

By the time I finished the fish taco, I saw that my shrimp taco had gotten a little soggy from the cabbage, salsa and crema (cream) on top. I took a bite out of the shrimp and immediately frowned when the batter came off the shrimp completely. Soggy, but very tasty! I wish I had ordered these separately so that I could hear that delicious crunch in the taco.

Overall. Very tasty fish and shrimp tacos. I liked the shrimp over the fish. Tasty crema. Love the crunch in the batter, but after a few bites, the batter made me feel like crap. I highly recommend ordering one taco at a time if you're into texture. The rice is VERY tasty here. It's loaded up with caldo de pollo (chicken bouillon cubes) and butter. I'd definitely be back here if I'm in the East LA area. But from the Silver Lake area, it's just too far. Also, on Wednesdays, it's $1 fish taco days. I'm not complaining about that!!!

Some debates on Tacos Baja Ensenada here and here. And by my gluttonous friend.

El Siete Mares Silver Lake

Subject #2: El Siete Mares, Silver Lake

Instead of eating at the El Siete Mares (The Seven Seas) restaurant, we went for the take-out side next door, called El Siete Mares Playita (Little Beach). This is a favorite for the residents of Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz and Atwater Village... with another 22 locations all over SoCal.

We ordered 2 fish ($2.29 each) and 2 shrimp ($3.29 each) tacos. Much pricier. These better be good I thought to myself. I hear the bell ring and the cashier signals me to pick up the order. I did a double take, as these tacos were huge. Tacos that were roided up like the MLB... daring you to finish both of them in under 10 mins. The tacos actually laughed at me. No wonder they were so expensive, it was filled with at least 3 big pieces of battered fish/5-6 shrimps, piled with cabbage and salsa. No joke, these were massive.

El Siete Mares Fish Taco

To an ant, this would be Mt. Everest. The fish taco was very tasty but the proportion of fish and cabbage to tortilla was just way off. Some major imbalance going on. I can understand that there are the more-for-your-money eaters and the taste-for-your-money eaters out there, but this was just ridiculous. I took out 2 pieces of fried fish and set them on the side so that I could enjoy my fish taco in a NORMAL manner.

El Siete Mares Shrimp Taco

Now time for the shrimp. Shrimp taco was still hot when I bit ito it, and the batter was quite light. It had excellent crunch and was very tasty.

Overall: With combos priced at $6-8, it's totally understandable. Prices are higher, but quantities more than compensate for it. You don't NEED rice or beans b/c the portions are very large. Chips and salsa are the perfect compliment. El Siete Mares is good. As of now, I'd eat the shrimp taco at TBE and ESM again.

And now for Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, in Los Feliz.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Los Feliz

Subject #3: Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Los Feliz

I first came here on a friend's recommendation and have been eating here weekly. I've seen the same people here before too. This place is run by Joseph Cordova, who used to sell his tacos at at market in Atwater Village, and opened up BFTIE around July. Cordova speaks fluent Spanish, as does his mom, who usually works the cash register. They've got a eat-now-pay-later way there.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Sign

Walking in, you'll see that this place has a simple set-up. You've got the lady in the front frying tacos over a small round fryer. You've got the drink fridge behind the cashier. You've got the salsa bar to the left with 4-5 kinds, ranging from wimpy to ring-of-fire hot. You've got scattered stools, tables and a counter top for those that like to stand and eat. And then you've got the 3-item menu: fish ($1.50), shrimp ($2.00) or drinks. Unfortunately, you cannot get a drink taco. Might be bad.

Here's why I like BFTIE, compared to the other place. You pay and walk up the frylady, and tell her your order. She cooks the tortillas to a nice crispiness, with slight burn spots and adds either 1.5 pcs of fish or 3-4 pcs of shrimp. Definitely a smaller portion, but balance is extremely important to me when eating tacos. Then, you walk up to the bar and style your own taco. You start with the avocado salsa, then the finely shredded cabbage, your choice of wimpy -> ring-of-fire hot salsa, a nice radish relish which is new to me and the big tub of crema with a spout. You are in complete control. This makes people blame themselves for making a shitty taco vs. pointing fingers at Joseph and his frylady. I make my tacos with the avocado salsa, tons of cabbage, salsa and just a lil' bit of crema. And they are wonderful.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Fish Taco

Cordova is an ex-wholesale seafood guy, and his experience shows. He uses a type of farm-raised fish called basa, which is a type of catfish native to the Mekong Delta area. Because Joseph's batter is so light, you're actually able to taste the sweet flesh of the fish. It's not sandy/gritty tasting at all. The fish is fried perfectly. As you can see, I use the condiments sparingly, compared to TBE and ESM which gives you no option at all.

Best Fish Tacos In Ensenada Shrimp Taco

Every time I eat the shrimp tacos, I always wonder where he gets it. It has a great sweetness and crunch to it that makes me want to eat more and more. The batter tends to be a little heavier on the shrimp b/c of the shrimp's small mass, but you can definitely taste it. J and Immaeatchu cannot refrain from ordering shrimp only. I myself, actually like the fish better.

Best fish tacos in Ensenada? I'm not sure – never been. Best fish taco in Los Feliz area, for me yes. BFTIE is addicting – I think about them every week. I find that some of the best places to eat at are always the ones with a simple business plan. Serve two type of tacos, but make sure they are the best they can be. At BFTIE, they do not serve beer, but you can drink out in the patio. Just run up to Cap n' Cork up the street for some good beer. My only caveat with BFTIE is that it hurts my wallet. If you have 4 shrimp tacos, like J usually does... that's $8 with no sides or drinks. But sometimes, you just need to cut to the chase. Cordova used to be more strict on the 1 taco-order-at-a-time rule when he first opened, but is more lenient now. But why risk the chance of making your tacos soggy. Just get one at a time and chill out there with a beer. Also, BFTIE doesn't have a phone number. Memorize their schedule like I have, everyday from 11-8 and closed on Mondays. Read more about them on this Chowhound thread.

In conclusion, all the tacos I've tried were delicious. If you want to get full, go to El Siete Mares. I like their fried shrimp taco, but haven't had their ceviche/cocteles, which I hear is tasty. If you want one of the LA originals and are looking for the best value, go to Tacos Baja Ensenada in East Los Angeles. The rice and beans are very good. But if you want to try a different style of tacos and ONLY tacos.... with basa fish, sweet shrimp, and the option of customizing your own taco, go to Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada. Again, all the places made me happy. Click image for a larger view on the fish taco analysis. I threw in Rubio's for the hell of it. It's not bad there but it's not that good. It's kind of a place I would go to if I found myself stuck in a mall food court with only a mongolian bbq, philly cheese steak grill and chinese/japanese/korean fusion place to choose from.

When I have time, I will add El Taco Nazo and Senor Fish (Little Tokyo) to the posting. Thanks for reading.

Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada
1650 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tues - Sun 11 am - 8 pm

Tacos Baja Ensenada
5385 Whittier Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90022
(323) 887-1980

El Siete Mares (Playita)
3131 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 665-0865

Read more!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pollo A La Brasa, Koreatown - The Gateway to Chicken Heaven

Pollo A La Brasa Koreatown

IF I WAS A CHICKEN, this is how i would go out.

First, I'll take the LA bus to Koreatown (because i'm too small to operate a vehicle) and walk to Pollo A La Brasa on Western/8th. I'd walk straight into the kitchen and proceed to be stripped nude of my feathers, like i LIKE it. The cook would then toss me on the cutting board and give me a ride on the guillotine.

Secondly, I would be tossed into a big jacuzzi of delicious Peruvian-style spices like and rolled around, flipped around, massaged (feels good) like I'm on a beach in Cancun. I would say hello to all my other friends lying right next to me.


Then, I will have a stiff metal rod impaled through my body from what was once my starhole, through what was once my head and placed in a chamber filled with eucalyptus logs – rotating in an infinite prom-slow dance at at a nice toasty 700 degrees. Oh joy.

After that, i will be cut into 6 pieces and placed over the patron's choice of skin-on fries or vegetable rice. For $.50, they can get me in a very hot & bothered mood with the SUPER SPICY aji sauce made of lettuce, cilantro, garlic, mayo and serrano chilis. If they want a 1/4 of me, they will pay $5. If they want all of me, they will pay $9.75 for me. I whore myself to Angelenos at any cost.

If you dare drive with me, beware of the car in front of you. My body odor will drive you crazy. You'll be licking your fingers once you're through with me and crave me some more. I am pure seduction.

Living for a rightful cause, has never been so DELICIOUS. Will you seal my fate?

Pollo A La Brasa Koreatown Logs

The stack of Eucalyptus wood.

Pollo A La Brasa Koreatown

The interior of Pollo A La Brasa, which is designed with a nice
hole-in-the-wall decor. I didn't get to see much of it.

Pollo A La Brasa Rotisserie Oven

Wee! I'm the 4th one to the left on the 2nd rod.
I think.

Pollo A La Brasa Chicken

Resting in peace, juiciness and flavor.

Pollo A La Brasa Chicken

Pollo A La Brasa Chicken


Pollo A La Brasa Grilled Beef Hearts

I saw these guys on the way in. Apparently, they are beef hearts – 4 pieces per skewered, and they are huge. I recommend getting these cooked medium rare and eat them fast b/c they will dry up quickly. Served with one large grilled potato and a corn cob - add salt.

Pollo A La Brasa Aji Sauce

Aji sauce.

Pollo A La Brasa
764 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90005

Pollo A La Brasahttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
16527 S Vermont Ave
Gardena, CA 90247

***There is also a place called Pollo La Brasa on Vine, up the street from Mario's Seafood & Peruvian. Not the same affiliation. Anyone try that place?

I've just added PALB to my list of very important numbers. And to my list of my favorite chicken joints – Pollo Campero and Mrs. Knott's Fried Chicken.

Read about J's meal here.
Read more!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Viet Noodle Bar, Atwater Village - Hello Noodle Bar, Goodbye Soy Cafe

Viet Noodle Bar Atwater Village

When I first heard of Silver Lake, I was told it was a haven for artists, musicians, screenwriters and of course, hipsters. On any day, you can drive by the cafes and shops and see people dotted along concrete like tacks on a bulletin board. You might see about thirty people outside the shoe-fiend hangout, Undefeated, waiting for the new $150 pair of artist-endorsed Nikes. You might see a lady with two dogs at Eat Well enjoying the sunlight and smog while reading the freshest copy of LA Weekly or The Onion. You might see a crazy person yelling at a telephone pole, maybe even punch it. You might see a man strumming his guitar for some change outside of the Intelligentsia coffeeshop. You might see a couple on a morning stroll, with arms completely tatted up like sleeves. This is the area I live in, and everyday is more interesting than the next. And although there's a salad bowl mix of personalities here in this postage stamp area called Silver Lake, you might find that there is one thing that a lot of Silverlakites do have in common. On top of the artists, musicians, screenwriters and hipsters here, vegans and health-freaks can now be added to the list of usual suspects.

Being a carnivore, I paid no attention to any of the healthy restaurants. That was until J dragged me along to the Viet Soy Cafe on Hyperion. When I walked in that day, I wasn't hungry at all. When I walked out, I was enlightened and hungry for even more. Two hours after, I thought about heading back over for some of Viet Tran's tasty soy mcnuggets and Hanoi-style fish noodles. Unfortunately, Viet Soy Cafe now rests in the abyss of oblivion, with only my photos to remind me of how nice a cup of fresh soy milk and vegan food can be on a Sunday morning.

Viet Tran first started his ambitions of opening a restaurant with a simple plan: start out small and simple. Selling chicken and tofu soup noodles at the Silver Lake Farmer's market to the hungry and curious, he eventually made enough to move on. At Viet Soy Cafe, a restaurant with no more than 7 bar seats and 3 tables, he served up some light and fresh Hanoi-style food. And within a year, he's on his latest project: the Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater Village.

Last Sunday, J, Pizza Snobs and I headed over to what would be an exciting day for both Viet Tran and us. This would be the 3rd week in a row that J and I have eaten his food on a Sunday morning. We headed towards a non-descript brick building with no signage, and only orange lettering on the window identifying the establishment. We found ourselves surrounded by tall white walls in a long and narrow cavity. There were two, long communal-style,wooden tables that extended from the front to the back of the restaurant. Old, beaten-up book lined the right side of the wall – over 250 books. It definitely had a subtle library effect, which was nice. There was a light hum of downtempo playing, yet this place was very peaceful and serene; lit mainly by natural light.

Viet Noodle Bar

Viet Noodle Bar

We were seated and new exactly what to order. I was hoping to see the Hanoi-style noodles on the menu, but it wasn't available until December.

Viet Noodle Bar Sesame Soy Milk

Sesame Soy Milk
We started out with a cold glass of soy milk, flavored with sesame. This version had sesame paste unlike the ground sesame paste from the Cafe. Still very light, and good.

Viet Noodle Bar Soy Coffee

Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Soy Milk
I like this because it's not as sweet as the original version made with condensed milk. God knows how many calories one cup of cafe sua da packs in.

Viet Noodle Bar Jicama Rolls

Jicama Rolls (Bo Bia Chay)
A fresh, vegetarian take on a popular spring roll appetizer. VNB's version includes jicama, carrots, sliced tofu, basil and fried shallots with a hoisin/peanut butter sauce. Very light, and easy to eat.

Viet Noodle Bar Banh Ram

Steamed Rice Cakes in Banana Leaves (Banh Nam)
This is a Hue-style dish. Rice flour, dried shrimp, fried shallots and green onions are poured into a piece of banana leaf, then folded over neatly into a small 'envelope' and wrapped with saran wrap. After steaming, you've got sort of a Vietnamese-style 'tamale'. The texture reminds me a lot of one of my favorites, banh beo, which are steamed, circular rice cakes. Served with fish sauce and sliced red chilis.

Viet Noodle Bar Banh Ram

Viet Noodle Bar Bun Chay

Soyskin with Shitake (Bun Chay)
Rolled sheets of soy, shitake mushrooms and fried shallots are sautéed and served over noodles that remind me of a skinnier form of banh canh, noodles made of rice and tapioca flour. The seasoning for the dish reminds me of Maggi sauce, which I whore over.

Viet Noodle Bar Bun Ca Thi La

Dill & Turmeric Fish Noodles (Bun Ca Thi La)
The main reason I've come to VNB was for these noodles. White sole fish is marinated in soy milk, dill & turmeric over night and then sautéed in a frying pan. This dish is garnished with cilantro, fried shallots and green onions, then served over the banh canh-like noodles. The taste is light, and even for myself, a little bit of fish sauce can knock this up. But I understand that the food served here at VNB is of the Hanoi-proper, which I've been told is typically lighter and not as bold as Saigon-style food. I love all vietnamese food, so it doesn't bother me.

Viet Noodle Bar

Overall, it was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning. The upgrade from the cafe to the new location was huge. And although the noodle bar is stylish in its own form, I truly miss the charm and coziness of what was once a small cafe on Hyperion. I was a bit disappointed to see that a few of my favorite dishes were not on the menu: the soy mcnuggets and the lemongrass chicken sandwich (banh mi). I'll be back to add in the photos of the soup noodles when it debuts in December. Thanks for reading.

Viet Noodle Bar
3133 1/2 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 906-1575
Read more!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Han Bat Shul Lung Tang, Koreatown 한 바 설 렁 탕 - Hangover Special Please

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang Koreatown

6:13 am.

I open my eyes to a hazy foreground. There's barely any light coming in through the windows yet I find it hard to even open my eyes. They feel like they've been sewn shut. I swallow the saliva in my mouth and feel the droplets slowly trickling down no faster than a snail's crawl. My mouth and throat are completely dry as a desert, probably from sleeping with my mouth open. I'm laying on the right side of my face, body sprawled over my bed. My leg's hanging off the bed and I can feel absolutely no blood circulating there. Oh my head. It feels like it's in a woodshop vise cranked all the way. The back of my eyeballs are throbbing with a slight jolt of pain. I can feel the pressure in my kidneys, signaling me to go to the bathroom. But I refuse to. I know what's going to happen if I get up. All the blood is going to tilt inside my head once I stand up, causing me to feel even more nauseous. It's now 7 am and my alarm goes off loudly. I purposely set my alarm to bad music so that I am FORCED to get up and turn it off. But this day, it couldn't be more painful with my hangover and horrible sound of Black Eyed Pea's "My Humps". If I had a gun, I would shoot my alarm clock a million times. I groan in major dis-satisfaction and shut up Fergie. Might as well go to the bathroom too. I stand up with the aid of my bed and feel the blood trickling to the right places, nearly falling. Oh god. I come back and fall back onto the bed. I miraculously find a cup of old water by my bed and kill it. This is terrible. The thought of going to work in the next few hours does not please me. As I lay there motionless in deep regret over last night's debauchery, there are only two words that come to mind:

Han Bat.

Han Bat (한 밭 설 렁 탕) is a Koreatown restaurant that specializes in ONE thing: sul lung tang. (I know the korean character for 'bat' is incorrect. Stupid computer won't do the character I want!) Sul lun tang is a soup made from boiling various beef bones, primarily oxtail, over a period of 12-15 hours. The result of the low-and-slow cooking method is a milky white broth caused by the collagen and marrow in the bones. Tonkotsu ramen is made through the same process, but with pork bones instead. There are only 4 meal categories in a day: breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. For me, I've added a 5th meal – this is best eaten after drinking. Nothing is more pleasing than a bowl of soup for me because I'm taking care of two things at once: thirst and hunger.

I walk in at 7:45 am and see a few tables occupied. I've been here about 8 times already and have figured out the clientele. There are usually two types of people that come in here. You've got the older Korean men and women (ah-je-shee and ah-je-ma) getting their breakfast on while reading the morning newspaper. And then you've got the 21-32 year old guys and girls with bags under their eyes, or bed-head, slurping the soup quite rapidly. At this time in the morning, they are more than likely... hungover. Like me.

Han Bat (한 밭) should actually change it's name to Han Go Pa (한 고 바) because of its remedial significance in quelling hangovers. Koreans will get that haha.

Han Bat

This is what Han Bat might look like when you're drunk or hungover. No time to admire the hole-in-the-wall decor. Just eat the food.

Han Bat

This is what Han Bat looks like after you've had their soup. All of a sudden, today is a brand new day.

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang

Han Bat's Hangover Soup: Sul Lung Tang
At Han Bat, they keep things really simple. You only have two options. Either you order the beef bone soup ($8.32 + tax) or you order the boiled beef that comes with wasabi ($16.63 + tax). The SLT comes in a mini black cauldron and is unsalted. You can smell the wafts of beefiness in the steam – reeling your drunk ass in. The broth has a subtle buttery-thickness to it. Some places will add tons of beef flavored stock (dashida) to enhance the real taste of beef bones. For your SLT, you can choose these types of toppings:

-mixed 석 음
-brisket 살 코 기
-flank 양 지
-intestine, tripe and spleen 내 장
-tongue 우 설

I always get the brisket and flank, which is similar to the beef cuts used in pho – my favorite. Rameniac has ordered the spleen before and decided to stick with non-spleen items. I love this soup!

Han Bat Toppings

Han Bat brings out the chef in you and lets you customize your SLT with korean salt (similar in texture to kosher, but slightly clumped up), black pepper and freshly-made chili paste. Along with the seasonings, comes the best topping in the world: the tub o' scallions which the server plops on the table. And a bowl of scalding hot rice packed into aluminum bowls.

Han Bat Sul Lung Tang

Normal people do one scoop. I take it to the next level and add 5 monster scoops. I've caught the server looking at me once. She asked me, "You like???" I said, "Nehhhhhh..."

Han Bat Kimchi

Han Bat Kimchi
I love their kimchi. This is the pasty, thick kind that doesn't have that acidic/carbonated bite which is usually associated with pre-bottled stuff. The server sets this on the table and asks if you want it cut. *Bam* Out comes the trusty old Korean-restaurant gadget: scissors. *Snip *Snip *Snip: on your mark, get set, kim chi!

Han Bat Radish

I can't describe the goodness of Han Bat's SLT. It is such a simple dish that does wonders for those that are sober or drunk. For a total of $11 (tip included), I get a piping hot bowl of beef bone soup, 2 side dishes, rice, the tub o' scallions and a very happy body. Han Bat accepts cash only and is open from 7am - 10 pm everyday. Valet parking available behind the building.

How do YOU quell your hangover?

Han Bat Shul Lung Tang (한 밭)
4163 W. 5th St (and Western)
Los Angeles, CA 90020 (213) 388-9499

And for those that find themselves hungover in NYC... I recommend Gahm Mi Oak. Solid. Read more!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Jones Soda Company - The Thanksgiving Holiday Pack

The only thing I like about the thanksgiving dinner meal itself, is the gravy. My plate looks like the Brown Sea once I get my hands on that greasy ladel. I literally drink it. Because of my current look (refer to profile photo), I've got to slow down. Thanks to the Jones Soda Company, a brand known for quenching our thirsts with unique flavors has furthered its reputation. Introducing: the Holiday Pack.

- Turkey & Gravy Soda
- Sweet Potatoes Soda
- Dinner Roll Soda
- Pea Soda
- Antacid Soda

I'll probably by some this week and come back with a report. Read more!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Viet Soy Cafe, Silver Lake - Hot Soy on the Platter

Viet Soy Cafe Silver Lake

Moving over to the East Side of Los Angeles has been a pleasant experience so far. Besides being closer to J, there were Asian markets that I could shop at and a variety of places to eat at. Korea town is to the South, Thai Town to the North and Chinatown/Little Tokyo to the East. And not to mention the cozy, down-to-earth places in the Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Atwater Village area. The Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Atwater Village area offers a lot of vegetarian and vegan options for those that are health-conscious. If you don't have the word 'organic' on your menu at least 5 times, you'll get less customers. Though being a health-conscious eater usually does not apply to me, I'll occasionally eat something healthful. Good food is still good food to me, whether it's wrapped in bacon or wrapped in a kale leaf. J has been on a health binge, so it's been hard finding a place that would satisfy us both. But sometimes you'll find a gem in the nooks and crannies of any city. May I introduce to you, Viet Soy Cafe.

After four failed attempts in going here for a meal, we were finally met with an open door. Viet Soy Cafe, named after the owner Viet Tran, is quietly tucked in between a residential area on Hyperion Avenue. I call this the Highway-perion or Die-perion, because of the cars that go by at 55-60 mph. Be careful, many people have died on this street unfortunately. On a happier note, you're in for a light lunch if you don't get runned over.

J and I walked into the cafe, a quaint little space with 6 or 7 counter top seats, one small 2-top and 2 outdoor tables. Viet Tran greeted us warmly and pointed to the counter. Behind the counter is a large fridge, and to the back is the kitchen with 1 cook and 1 dishwasher. You can see all of this happening because the space is SUPER small. But nonetheless, a feeling of coziness that you get at a lot of restaurants in the Silver Lake area.

Viet Soy Cafe Window

We checked out the photo-copied menus, making sure to order the recommended dishes from Yelp reviews and Bon Vivant's posting. It was 10:30 am, and we couldn't be more excited about a healthy soy breakfast.

Viet Soy Cafe Soy Milk

Fresh Organic Soy Milk with Black Sesame
I love all soy milk. The super-thick, velvety soy from Silk. The boxed Soy milk from Hong Kong, Vitasoy, that kids never wanted to trade for during my time in grade school. The hot bowl of Soy milk that the Taiwanese have for breakfast. I love it all. At Viet Soy Cafe, you can get your soy milk with flavors: black sesame, cinnamon, mint or yerba mate (grassy, green tea-like taste). The black sesame seeds are toasted and ground probably with a mortar & pestle, and then lightly sprinkled into the cool, soy liquid. The soy was very fresh and subtle in sweetness, with slight undertones of sesame. If you like yours more sweet, I'm sure you can ask for sugar. I liked it the way it was served. You can take home a quart for $5.00 with a $1.00 bottle deposit.

Besides the ubiquitous vietnamese-style coffee with condensed milk, VSC offers a version made with soymilk - looks tasty!

Viet Soy Cafe Soy Nuggets

Soy Nuggets
Everytime I shop at the Chinese market, I have to make a stop at the soy products. From the five-spiced tofu to the fried soy squares, you can make endless stir fry dishes with these as a substitution for meat. According to Viet, the soy used for this dish is different from that of the milk. When ground together and mixed in with carrots, green onions and seasonings, the result is a nice 'nugget' of goodness. Some may find it necessary to have a dipping sauce, but again, I like it simple without any accoutrements. I could have eaten another order because they were just fried perfectly, almost tasting like chicken. 6 pcs. for $3.00

Viet Soy Cafe Jicama Rolls

Jicama Rolls
Jicama, a type of turnip, is used a lot in Vietnamese cuisine. If you've had cha gio before, you've tasted it. These spring rolls are made with sliced soy cubes, julienned jicama, mint, fried shallots and served with a hoisin/peanut butter dipping sauce. The rolls are light and easy to gobble up in 2 bites. I love ANYTHING with fried shallots in it. J really liked these because they're healthy. 5 rolls for $5.00

Viet Soy Cafe Chicken Banh Mi

Lemongrass Chicken 'Banh Mi' Sandwich
VSC offers three types of sandwiches: shitake & tofu, green onion sardine and lemongrass chicken. The lemongrass chicken was made with an orange aioli, probably mayonnaise and a little Sriracha mixed together. 8" sandwich for $5.00

Viet Soy Cafe Fish Noodles

Dill & Turmeric Fish Noodles (Bun Ca Thi La)
Like Mexican restaurants that serve their weekend menudo, Viet has his fish noodles on Sundays only. I'm more than glad he recommended this, because 3 hours after lunch, I almost drove back to Die-perion Avenue and risk my life running outside of my parked car to eat this again. The portion was small and I think he did this to strategically drive me crazy. I loved this dish. Viet said this is a Hanoi-style dish, and Hanoi food in general, has a much lighter taste than its Southern counterpart. The fish was sauteed in a pan and mixed with turmeric, dill, fish sauce, sugar and soy milk, served over bu'n noodles (rice noodles). And of course, a nice sprinkle of freshly fried shallots. I've never had this before so I have nothing to compare it to, but I will surely order this again. This Sunday. $7.00

Viet Soy Cafe Fish Noodles

The reviews and the overheard discussions on VSC did not disappoint me. While I'm curious as to how it would do in areas like San Gabriel Valley and Westminster, even Hanoi, you have to appreciate it for what it is. It's a cozy, quaint, tasty, health-conscious addition to the Silver Lake/Los Feliz/Atwater Village area with a nice, hard-working owner. A lot of people are vegetarian/vegan in this area and VSC is exactly the type of place they want. Even for a carnivore like me. This beats a coma-inducing meal at my other breakfast joint, Eat Well. If I were to open a restaurant, I would want a space exactly like this – 15-20 seats, 10 things on the menu. When you don't have too many items on the menu, you have more time to focus on making something the best it can be and you can actually talk to your patrons. Thanks for reading.

A-hem, A-hem, A-hem***
Viet Soy Cafe will be closed for a few weeks starting 11/25. Viet Tran is opening his other restaurant, Viet, in the Atwater Village, ACROSS from Indochine Cafe. Viet will feature Hanoi-stye Pho (more subtle than Saigon-style Pho and less toppings), cha gio egg rolls, banh cuon crepes, and much more.

Viet Soy Cafe
1997 Hyperion Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 663-7888
Sunday - Thursday 10am-3pm (closed Friday & Saturday)
Master-Cash Only!

Viet (Atwater Village)
3133 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) NOT-SURE Read more!

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