Archive for the ‘Restaurants to Rave About’ Category

LA’s Fabulous Food Gems: Furaibo

January 11, 2011

I have a weakness for Japanese cuisine  – it’s comfort food for me.  I’m also a big fan of restaurants that serve  small plates because it allows me to try a variety of dishes.  Furaibo’s izakaya style is pretty much perfect for me – small portions of Japanese food shared by everyone at the table.  The authenticity goes past the food – the woodsy look and feel with tatami rooms in the back is reminiscent of what you might find in Tokyo.  It’s very reasonably priced, AND they are open late – 11pm during the week, 11:30pm on the weekend. Most importantly, the food is amazing. I’ve never had anything here I didn’t like, so even if you don’t recognize many of the dishes, you can’t really go wrong.

*pictures to come soon*

Menu Must-Haves:

Agedashi Tofu: Furaibo is where I feel in love with this delicious dish, and I have yet to find it done better anywhere else. The tofu cubes are lightly fried making their seasoned coating a perfect golden crisp. They sit in a warm dashi sauce and are topped with finely chopped daikon. I always add a few dashes of chili powder for extra flavor, and often end up getting 2 orders because I just can’t get enough!

Satsuma Imo: Quite possibly my favorite croquettes ever.  Golden sweet potatoes mashed into a smooth consistency then formed into hockey puck sized patties, coated in panko crumbs, and served piping hot with a side of sweet katsu dipping sauce, slice of butter, and spicy mustard.  This one is not to be missed.

Age Nasu: This dish is very similar to Agedashi Tofu, but uses succulent cubes of eggplant instead. There is not a hint of bitterness or toughness in the skin and the vegetable goes so well with the dashi sauce. Even if you don’t like eggplant, you will like this.

Yaki Onigiri: So simple, but oh so good.  A triangular shaped ball of steamed rice brushed generously with soy sauce and then grilled. Doesn’t get more authentic Japanese than this.

Soft Shell Crab: These days you can find soft shell crab on most seafood restaurant’s menu, but this one is definitely a stand-out. The crab is coated in a thin tempura-like batter, fried, and accompanied with a ponzu sauce, finely chopped chives, and minced daikon radish.  I’ve enjoyed this dish with people who don’t even like seafood and are surprised to find they love eating a whole crab – shell, legs, and all.

FURAIBO

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2068 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025-6230

(310) 444-1432

LA’s Fabulous Food Gems: Bacaro L.A. Wine Bar

October 18, 2010

I’ve been frequenting this cozy wine bar since it first opened a couple of years ago, and while I loved it then, it’s only gotten better, and my love for it has only grown stronger. There are countless wine bars in LA, but it isn’t easy to find one that places just as much focus on the quality of the food as it does on the wine selection.  This place accomplishes just that and more, and is yet another spot where I’ve never ordered something I didn’t like!  An intimate space in the USC area, Bacaro serves a great selection of delectable small plates ranging from creative crostinis with toppings like mascarpone, fresh ricotta, olive tapenade, or blue cheese, to perfectly cooked  steak flavored with thyme and lemon, and desserts like Nutella panini and bread budding.

Bacaro Crostinis

Food and drinks are all priced very reasonably: Individual plates are $8, or every 3 plates for $21.  The daily wine and beer list is written on the wall-sized chalk board.  And it wouldn’t be a wine bar without a cheese plate option!  You can get creative by mixing and matching various artisinal cheeses with sides like walnuts, honey, dates, and more.

Menu Must-Haves:

Eggplant stuffed with Ground Lamb Leg: This is a relatively new addition to the menu, and it is absolutely phenomenal.  The balance of garlic, herbs, and spices in the ground lamb is just right.  Eggplant is tender and surrounded by a crisp breading. The genius combination is topped with a delicious yogurt sauce and a “lemon chip” – the crunchy citrus in each bite brings all the components together perfectly. If you were to order just one item, this should be it.

Eggplant stuffed with Ground Lamb Leg

Steak with Thyme and Lemon: Petit filet mignon is grilled to perfection (and cooked to your liking) then sliced into six moderately thin pieces, flavored with fresh thyme, sea salt, lemon and served with an extra wedge for added acidity. If you’re like me and LOVE meat, you must come for their “Beefsteak Sundays” (first Sunday of every month) and try the all-you-can-eat steak and wine. What more could you ask for?

Steak Thyme and Lemon

Cauliflower: If you’re on the fence about this vegetable, this would be the place to try it – you WILL enjoy it.  The white florets are just slightly crisped on the outside, left tender on the inside, and drizzled with a spicy sauce.  So simple, but a delicious and healthy option.

Spicy Cauliflower

Bacaro Burger: This isn’t just any burger – trust me. A healthy sized, juicy patty is placed on a thick square of toasted brioche bread with a slice of fresh tomato, grilled onions, and parsley, served open faced and topped with a secret sauce that is out of this world.

Bacaro Burger

White Bean Bruschetta: The bruschetta dish includes four generous slices and you can choose two different toppings.  I love the white bean topping so much I always order a double helping of it! Toasty fresh baguette topped with a blend of white beans, extra virgin olive oil, and lots of garlic.  Seriously yum.

BACARO L.A.

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bacarola.com

2308 S. Union Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

(213) 748-7205

LA’s Fabulous Food Gems: Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodles

October 11, 2010

There are countless Thai restaurants in LA. Heck, there’s even a Thai Town.  But this Silverlake family-run hole-in-the-wall is by far the best Thai food I’ve had in this city.  They have menu options you won’t find at other Thai restaurants. Not to mention, the flavor explosions you experience with every bite of every dish is incomparable.  What I love most is that their menu options incorporate a lot of Thai street food-like dishes; The deliciousness that Thai people eat IN Thailand, and not what has been adapted to American taste.  It’s the closest to the food I’ve had in Bangkok that I’ve found in the US.

Wall Menu Mural

The restaurant is small and cozy, with the food items presented as a beautiful chalk drawn mural (in addition to the individual paper menus for easy reference.)  Everything on the menu is very reasonably priced, with most dishes ranging $5-$15 each, and almost everything is under $20. The owners and servers are so hospitable, it’s as if you’re dining in their home. Ask for the dessert specials – they are all homemade, deliciously presented, and make you feel like you’re dining in an upscale restaurant.

Must-haves:

Larb Tod: I literally have dreams about this dish.  Little balls of ground chicken coated in an aromatic batter of lemon grass and keffir lime, lightly fried to a crisp, and served with cabbage and herbs.  Wrap the chicken in the cabbage and top with the herbs (and some hot sauce if you can take it!) It’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.

Larb Tod

Beef Noodle Bowl: This is actually Wat Dong Moon Lek’s speciality, and it’s easy to see why.  Rice noodles swim in a very tasty broth, topped with tender slices of braised beef and fresh scallions.  Not only is it so much more gratifying than most noodle soups you’ll find, it’s bursting with flavor.  It comes in a small and large size and is very shareable!

Beef Noodle Soup

Spicy Basil Crispy Pork Belly: There are almost no words to adequately describe the goodness of this dish.   Ask for green peppercorns to be added and you’ll have it made.  The chunks of crisp pork belly combined with the spicy, tomatoey sauce and little crunchy peppercorns served over fluffy rice make you wish the food was being replenished with every bite you take.

Wat Dong Moon Lek Spicy Basil Pork BellySpicy Basil Crispy Pork Belly with Green Peppercorns

Minced Pork Noodle Salad: Now THIS is my kind of salad. The warm pork, chopped red onions, cilantro, lemon juice, and other authentic Thai herbs and flavors are tossed with cold glass noodles and presented with fresh cabbage slices.  I love the mix of the warm and cold – it adds even more depth to this refreshingly yummy “salad”.

Minced Pork Noodle Salad

WAT DONG MOON LEK

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watdongmoonlek.com
(323) 666-5993
4356 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029-2226

LA’s Fabulous Food Gems: Intro

October 11, 2010

While there are a number of cities in the US that are considered “culinary meccas” and have thousands of amazing places to eat, I think there are two key things that really set Los Angeles apart in the food world:

1) The variety of ethnic restaurants

2) The ‘strip mall’ phenomenon

Some of LA’s  best eateries can ironically be found among the many strip malls that are ubiquitous in this urban sprawl.    I went to see my favorite TV personality, Anthony Bourdain (No Reservations), speak at Royce Hall (UCLA) a few months ago and was thrilled when these were two characteristics he cited when asked what he thought made LA’s food scene so great. What can I say, great minds think alike.

Because I’ve tried too many amazing places to name (and still have so many more to explore), it’s almost impossible for me to have a “favorite” restaurant.  So, I decided to share a list of some, and I emphasize – SOME –  LA restaurants that I consider to be true gems – a few of them very hidden gems.  Most of these picks are ones that aren’t talked about a lot and that deserve much more attention.

Look out for a post on each of them over the next few weeks, hopefully with just enough tantalizing info to spike your interest enough to go check them out.

First up…Wat Dong Moon Lek Noodles in Silverlake.

View of Los Angeles from Runyon Canyon