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food

Red O

November 11, 2013

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 655-5009

http://www.redorestaurant.com

The moment we walked into this nicely decorated Mexican restaurant, I thought I was up for a good experience. However, almost everything went downhill from then on. We were greeted with bad service and mediocre dishes that were not worth the price we paid for. This might be from my lack of familiarity with the Mexican food culture but I really do think I’ve had better tacos from food trucks that costed much less than what we paid for at Red O.

It all started nicely when our waiter came to take our order, gave us some suggestions, brought us our wine. After that, he was never to be seen throughout the rest of our dinner until we constantly asked other waiters to help us find ours. Yes, it was very frustrating. There’s nothing I find more frustrating than having inattentive waiters where you waste time trying to find him.

Happy Eating List

Guac & Chips: But then again, you can't go wring with Guac & Chips.

Guac & Chips:
But then again, you can’t go wring with Guac & Chips.

Pork Belly Sope: This was an appetizer that I found more enjoyable than the other dishes. After all, it's pork belly! I was pretty disappointed because the waiter did tell me their Pork Belly Sopes were amazing and it's an absolute must-try dish at Red O. If this is the ultimate must-try dish, I have to say that sets a pretty low standard for the rest of the dishes on their menu.

Pork Belly Sope:
This was an appetizer that I found more enjoyable than the other dishes. After all, it’s pork belly on a pastry crust! I was pretty disappointed because the waiter did tell me their Pork Belly Sopes were amazing and it’s an absolute must-try dish at Red O. If this is the ultimate must-try dish, I have to say that sets a pretty low standard for the rest of the dishes on their menu.

Not So Happy List

Tuna Ceviche: Very disappointed. I don't recommend for anyone to order this dish.

Tuna Ceviche:
Very disappointed. I don’t recommend for anyone to order this dish.

Lamb in Mole Negro: This was supposed to be Rick Bayless's winning dish on the Top Chef. Perhaps he did not convey his secret to the chef at Red O cooking our dish the night we dined there because I have definitely had better lamb dishes at other restaurants. This was a dish that was not appealing at all in terms of sight and taste. Again, very, very disappointed.

Lamb in Mole Negro:
This was supposed to be Rick Bayless’s winning dish on the Top Chef. Perhaps he did not convey his secret to the chef at Red O cooking our dish the night we dined there because I have definitely had better lamb dishes at other restaurants. This was a dish that was not appealing at all in terms of sight and taste. Again, very, very disappointed.

I am generally not that harsh on restaurants but this was truly one of the worst dining experiences I have had in Los Angeles. The meal ended costing around $500 including wine and I have to say, I did not think it was worth the price at all. Not so surprisingly, my friend visited Red O this past weekend and had a bad dining experience as well.

I’m still on the hunt for good Mexican food in Los Angeles before I finish off with the school year and head back to Hong Kong for good. Please let me know if you have any suggestions!

Happy eating,
Joey Wong ♥

Il Grano

October 28, 2013

Il Grano
11363 Santa Monica Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 477-7886

http://www.ilgrano.com

We decided to come to Il Grano after searching for the best uni pastas in Los Angeles. Since Il Grano popped up and it was located nearby, we decided to give it a try. Major mistake. I have rarely written any posts where I criticize almost everything about the restaurant but my experience at Il Grano was beyond bad. Let me plunge straight into the “Not So Happy List.”

Not So Happy List

Crudo:  Our crude of the day included one oyster and a few slices of sashimi. None of them were too fantastic and the plating wasn't too appealing.

Crudo:
Our crude of the day included one oyster and a few slices of sashimi. None of them were too fantastic and the plating wasn’t too appealing.

Caprese: It's slightly biased that I'm including the Caprese Salad on the Not So Happy List because of the bad experience I had at Il Grano. However, I have to point out that it's hard to make Caprese taste bad. This is why it all comes down to plating and the colors of the food. Though there were a variety of heirloom tomatoes on the plate, I have to say it looked more like a mess than a plate of carefully placed vegetable and mozzarella cheese.

Caprese:
It’s slightly biased that I’m including the Caprese Salad on the Not So Happy List because of the bad experience I had at Il Grano. However, I have to point out that it’s hard to make Caprese taste bad. This is why it all comes down to plating and the colors of the food. Though there were a variety of heirloom tomatoes on the plate, I have to say it looked more like a mess than a plate of carefully placed vegetable and mozzarella cheese.

Bigoli al Nero: This was by far the worst disappointment of the night. Since Il Grano ranked as one of the best restaurants with uni pasta, I had high hopes for the dish. The pasta could have used a few more seconds on the stove as well as a extra drizzle of sauce. I felt as if everything about this pasta could use a little more of everything. Il Grano could definitely add a little more uni to the dish as well.

Bigoli al Nero:
This was by far the worst disappointment of the night. Since Il Grano ranked as one of the best restaurants with uni pasta, I had high hopes for the dish. The pasta could have used a few more seconds on the stove as well as a extra drizzle of sauce. I felt as if everything about this pasta could use a little more of everything. Il Grano could definitely add a little more uni to the dish as well.

Caramelle: Again, this dish is slightly biased. It did not taste all that bad but then of course, I'm being harsh on this restaurant because of the bad impression and bad experience I have had so far. The "candy-wrap" style ravioli could use a few more seconds in the pot so the sides of the ravioli would not be as hard and dry. I'm personally a big fan of pasta al-dente so it means something it definitely says something if I think pasta is undercooked.

Caramelle:
Again, this dish is slightly biased. It did not taste all that bad but then of course, I’m being harsh on this restaurant because of the bad impression and bad experience I have had so far. The “candy-wrap” style ravioli could use a few more seconds in the pot so the sides of the ravioli would not be as hard and dry. I’m personally a big fan of pasta al-dente so it means something it means something if I think pasta is undercooked.

I would avoid revisiting Il Grano for the time being because of the disappointments I experienced while dining at the restaurant.

I definitely had better Italian food in Los Angeles. If you’re really craving for uni pasta, I’d say Osteria Mozza served better ones than Il Grano did.

Happy eating,
Joey Wong ♥

Trois Mec

October 16, 2013

Trois Mec
716 N. Highland Ave,
Hollywood, CA 90038
No phone

www.troismec.com 

Hidden inside of a building that still hangs the pizza sign from the previous owner is Trois Mec. It took me a while to find it, not knowing that there wasn’t big Trois Mec sign on the door but this made the experience the more interesting. It felt like you had to be a real foodie to find the restaurant. Here’s another tip. If your reservation is for 8 pm, you won’t be seated until 8 pm. They time their meals so the people who made their reservations for 6 pm don’t finish until right before 8.

The entire dining experience was phenomenal so I’m just going to jump right into the highlights.

Happy Eating List:

Avocado on sushi rice with salt cod cream, lime and cilantro: This was the first course that started the meal and it was a mix of heaven and bliss all in the same bite. It was my first time tasting rice mixed with cod cream. Along with the soft texture of the avocado, it was a bite of all things smooth. The slight hint of lime juice gave it a subtle refreshing aftertaste.

Avocado on sushi rice with salt cod cream, lime and cilantro:
This was the first course that started the meal and it was a mix of heaven and bliss all in the same bite. It was my first time tasting rice mixed with cod cream. Along with the soft texture of the avocado, it was a bite of all things smooth. The slight hint of lime juice gave it a subtle refreshing aftertaste.

Beef Carpaccio with grilled yogurt, fermented black walnut and caramelized eggplant:  First off, what is grilled yogurt? I can tell you now that it did not have the burnt, charcoal taste that I expected. Instead, I thought it was a great addition to the dish. I'm always most impressed with chefs who create dishes using ingredients that I normally dislike to eat. The Beef Carpaccio dish is an example of that. I tend to avoid all things eggplants when I eat but this was a pleasant surprise. I actually enjoyed the eggplants in this dish. So there, enough said. I loved it.

Beef Carpaccio with grilled yogurt, fermented black walnut and caramelized eggplant:
First off, what is grilled yogurt? I can tell you now that it did not have the burnt, charcoal taste that I expected. Instead, I thought it was a great addition to the dish. I’m always most impressed with chefs who create dishes using ingredients that I normally dislike to eat. The Beef Carpaccio dish is an example of that. I tend to avoid all things eggplants when I eat but this was a pleasant surprise. I actually enjoyed the eggplants in this dish. So there, enough said. I loved it.

Potato pulp with brown butter, bonito, onion soubise and salers:  At first glance, you'd think it was macaroni. After the first bite, you'll realize it's actually potato. Very rich, creamy. The bonito added some really nice flavors to the potato. This is also one of Trois Mec's signature dishes. Only thing that I didn't like about this dish is that all the potato will fill you up fast. Remember that you have more courses coming up!

Potato pulp with brown butter, bonito, onion soubise and salers:
At first glance, you’d think it was macaroni. After the first bite, you’ll realize it’s actually potato. Very rich, creamy. The bonito added some really nice flavors to the potato. This is also one of Trois Mec’s signature dishes. Only thing that I didn’t like about this dish is that all the potato will fill you up fast. Remember that you have more courses coming up!

Barbecued Carrots with Orange Curry and Sour Cream: I had this option instead of the lamb that was originally on the menu since I'm not a big fan of lamb. After this dish, I will never look at carrots the same way again. Chef Ludo is really skilled at turning such simple ingredients into a fine, elegant dish that is rich in flavors and very, very visually pleasing.

Barbecued Carrots with Orange Curry and Sour Cream:
I had this option instead of the lamb that was originally on the menu since I’m not a big fan of lamb. After this dish, I will never look at carrots the same way again. Chef Ludo is really skilled at turning such simple ingredients into a fine, elegant dish that is rich in flavors and very, very visually pleasing.

Truffle grilled cheese sandwich with buttermilk sauce and campfire ice cream: Wow. This $9 supplement is worth your money. Again, Chef Ludo turned the ordinary grilled cheese sandwich into something unique. My ice cream actually melted a little by the time I took the picture, which explains why the dish looks the way it does in my picture.

Truffle grilled cheese sandwich with buttermilk sauce and campfire ice cream:
Wow. This $9 supplement is worth your money. Again, Chef Ludo turned the ordinary grilled cheese sandwich into something unique. My ice cream actually melted a little by the time I took the picture, which explains why the dish looks the way it does in my picture.

Well, that’s it from me. Unlike other fine dining experiences, I thought that a meal at Trois Mec was decently priced, especially for the quality of the food and service you receive as well as the truly unique tasting experience.

I do look forward to getting my golden ticket to Trois Mec again early Friday mornings and trying some of the dishes offered since the menu changes every day. Stay tuned for my post on chi SPACCA!

Happy eating,
Joey Wong ♥

Chef Ludo Lefebvre–Stay Tuned!

September 23, 2013

Hi all!

I had the honor to meet Chef Ludo Lefebvre when I dined at Trois Mec on Thursday. Stay tuned for the food post!

Chef Ludo

Chef Ludo

Happy eating,
Joey Wong ♥

ROC

August 21, 2013

ROC
2049 Sawtelle Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 235-2089

Yesterday was pretty much what I missed about LA. Woke up to a half an hour swim, went for brunch with the girls, shopped and got a new top and chilled until dinnertime at ROC on Sawtelle. Most people go for Tsujita for tsukemen but since they don’t offer that for dinner, we walked next door to ROC (I bet you didn’t know it stood for Republic of China) for some Taiwanese food. After one of my friends raved about their soup dumplings (小籠包), it was kind of hard not to look forward to tasting some of the restaurant’s dishes and drooling over the menu.

If you’ve been to Din Tai Fung, it might be good news for you that ROC follows a pretty similar concept from their paper menus where you mark the items that you want to order to the soup dumplings to other dishes like the stir-fried rice cakes (炒年糕).

Happy Eating List:

Three-Cup Chicken (三杯雞): I loved the Three-Cup Chicken although it's been years since I've had my last Three-Cup Chicken in Asia so I cannot vouch for its authenticity. However, I loved the taste of it regardless. I do think that it might be slightly Americanized since I thought it leaned more towards the sweet side. I couldn't get enough of it regardless!

Three-Cup Chicken (三杯雞):
I loved the Three-Cup Chicken although it’s been years since I’ve had my last Three-Cup Chicken in Asia so I cannot vouch for its authenticity. However, I loved the taste of it regardless. I do think that it might be slightly Americanized since I thought it leaned more towards the sweet side. I couldn’t get enough of it regardless!

Soup Dumplings / Xiao Long Bao (小籠包): I apologize for the blurry picture. The blurriness is from the steam of the freshly-made soup dumplings that disappeared from the table within minutes among us three girls. For those who live on the west side, you no longer have to drive 20+ miles to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for some soup dumplings. ROC's dumplings were pretty good but Din Tai Fung is still my favorite soup dumpling restaurant.

Soup Dumplings / Xiao Long Bao (小籠包):
I apologize for the blurry picture. The blurriness is from the steam of the freshly-made soup dumplings that disappeared from the table within minutes among us three girls. For those who live on the west side, you no longer have to drive 20+ miles to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia for some soup dumplings. ROC’s dumplings were pretty good but Din Tai Fung is still my favorite soup dumpling restaurant.

Stir-Fried Rice Cake (炒年糕): The stir-fried rice cake also landed a spot on my "Happy Eating List." I don't think my cravings for Chinese food had anything to do with all the dishes that made it onto the list for this post. It was simply just that good.

Stir-Fried Rice Cake (炒年糕):
The stir-fried rice cake also landed a spot on my “Happy Eating List.” I don’t think my cravings for Chinese food had anything to do with all the dishes that made it onto the list for this post. It was simply just that good.

Not So Happy List:

Beef Noodle Soup (紅燒牛肉麵): I felt that the Beef Noodle Soup was not as authentic and I can find better ones in Los Angeles. If you don't feel like driving and want to satisfy your cravings, go ahead. I wouldn't go back for the Beef Noodle Soup. Instead, I would go for some of the other items that were on my Happy Eating List!

Beef Noodle Soup (紅燒牛肉麵):
I felt that the Beef Noodle Soup was not as authentic and I can find better ones in Los Angeles. If you don’t feel like driving and want to satisfy your cravings, go ahead. I wouldn’t go back for the Beef Noodle Soup. Instead, I would go for some of the other items that were on my Happy Eating List!

 

Next time you’re in the area, give ROC a try! It’s a restaurant that I am quite certain I will return, even if it’s just for their Three-Cup Chicken. After my friend saw my check-in on Four Square, he asked for my opinion on this restaurant. Turns out his friend opened it! I can promise this fact did not affect my rating of the dishes. With a bit of Googling, I found out that owner Peter Cheung first started The Slanted Door in the Bay Area. I look forward to my next visit to San Francisco where (I hope) I can try some of the dishes at The Slanted Door and I also hope to meet such a talented restaurant owner in the future!

Happy eating,
Joey Wong ♥

Larchmont Bungalow

May 25, 2013

Larchmont Bungalow
107 N. Larchmont Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 461-1528

http://www.larchmontbungalow.com

Ever since my friend brought me to Larchmont Bungalow for the first time, I’ve always wanted to go back.  One semester later, I finally did.  First, I’d like to say the ambiance is to be commended.  Larchmont Bungalow is one of the only places I find truly relaxing during the weekend brunch hour.  Even though it may be hard to find seats since the place has definitely earned its popularity, it is still among my favorites among the brunch places I have been to in LA.  Larchmont Bungalow offers both, indoor and outdoor seatings.  Once you enter the cafe, it is easy to forget about the time ticking on your parking meter and that you are living in a bustling city where something is always happening.

Highlights:

  • Ice Blended White Chocolate: Must try, especially on a hot summer day.  The name pretty much speaks for itself.
  • Kale Salad: This was one of the special items that’s not served daily.  However, if you’re lucky and they offer it the day you visit Larchmont Bungalow, I would recommend adding this to your order.  The salad is served with grilled chicken, mango chunks, pumpkin seeds (I think), and a vinaigrette sauce.  I’m not a big fan of seeds and can’t really determine their differences, which is why it’s only a guess that the salad was topped with pumpkin seeds.  Anyway, the salad was very refreshing and the slightly sweetened vinaigrette sauce definitely complemented the the salad.

Disappointments:
It’s always hard to come up with disappointments, especially at Larchmont Bungalow.  This is why the disappointments for this post are only in comparison with the “must-tries” I named.

  • The Benedicts: It simply might be because I’ve been to quite a handful of brunch places in LA now, that the cravings for brunch food are no longer there.  The benedicts were a disappointment this time because the eggs were overcooked.  I prefer the eggs cooked to perfection where the yolk is still raw and is like a sauce for the benedict when I break the yolk.  I also didn’t enjoy the Lobster Crab Cake Benedict as much as I thought I would.  The crab cake was slightly too dry for me.

While placing my order at the counter, I noticed a petition where customers sign it to protect Larchmont Bungalow.  I did a bit of research, and found out that Larchmont Bungalow is only licensed to be a take-out restaurant.  The restaurant violated the agreement by offering tables in its indoor and outdoor areas.  Even though I’m not familiar with the city planning code, I hope that Larchmont Bungalow can continue to run its sit-in restaurant.  It’s such a peaceful place that I would definitely miss if it has to close down because of the violation.

I have already been here twice and will continue to go back for hangouts and catch up sessions with my friends.  Again, I hope Larchmont Bungalow can somehow continue to serve its amazing food in that serene environment.

Happy eating,

Joey Wong ♥

Tsujita Annex

May 22, 2013

Tsujita Annex
2050 Sawtelle Blvd,
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 231-0222

http://tsujita-la.com

After visiting Tsujita for their tsukemen (dip ramen), I fell in love with their ramen immediately.  I loved the chewy texture of their ramen as well as the thick, flavorful broth for the dip.  Their ramen is also served on the cold side, which is perfect for a hot summer day (almost year-round in LA).  When their sister ramen store, Annex, opened across from Tsujita, I had to try it.

The main differences between Tsujita and Annex are:

  • Tsujita offers tsukemen while Annex offers regular ramen
  • Tsujita offers tsukemen only during lunchtime while Annex offers ramen for the whole day
  • The line at Annex was slightly shorter than Tsujita’s when I went, which means go now before everyone finds out about Annex and the line gets really long

There weren’t many options for me to choose from when I went to Annex, mainly because it just opened.  Their miso ramen was not available at the time so I ordered the Ramen with Soft Boiled Egg.  The portion was HUGE, especially since the waitress thought I wanted the large ramen.

The broth at Annex was as thick as the the broth at Tsujita, which made it really filling.  I love ramen and I can sometimes finish an entire ramen at Daikokuya (yes, I’m a pretty big eater for a small person) but it was hard to manage even half a bowl of ramen at Annex.  Annex’s ramen was pretty much the same as Tsujita’s, except Annex served their ramen hot.  Tsujita’s was good because the thick broth was only used for dipping.  For those who are used to drinking the soup with their ramen, I would say Annex is not the place to go.

In short, I would definitely revisit Tsujita for their tsukemen despite the long lines, over going back to Annex.

Happy eating,

Joey Wong ♥

Animal

May 12, 2013

Animal
435 N. Fairfax Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 782-9225

http://animalrestaurant.com

Animal is amazing!  After a very long day, it was nice to settle down at a relaxing restaurant.  I tried getting table reservations at Animal previously but they were always full.  I came here half an hour before they closed at 10 pM, and got seated right away!  It’s a dimly-lit restaurant, definitely a place for dinner with wine.

 

Highlights:

  • Quail: I grew up in Hong Kong and I’m a big lover for char siu (BBQ pork).  The quail was served with char siu sauce and a fruit yoghurt on the side.  Definitely recommend it.
  • Veal Tongue: This is another must try.  If you’re not grossed out by tongue and order it at Korean BBQ places, you have to try this.  Instead of the smokey taste you get from the Korean BBQ places, the veal tongue is served with squid ink sauce on the side, a great touch to the dish.

Disappointments:

  • Pig ear: It was sour, crunchy.  I’m not too sure if Americans are used to eating pig ears with a sourish taste but (maybe because I’m Chinese), I much prefer the Chinese flavors.
  • Rabbit leg: Yup. I tried it. It wasn’t too much of a disappointment but since everything else were so good, the rabbit legs were disappointing in comparison.  Before you get too grossed out, it tasted pretty much like chicken.  The rabbit leg was served with peas on the side but my favorite part of the whole dish was the mashed potato.

Here’s another tip for dining at Animal.  I went with a group of four and we got to taste a little of many dishes.  The portions are pretty small but since there are so many different and exotic dishes at this restaurant, it’s better to go with a bigger group and try a little of everything!

 

All in all, I look forward to my next visit to Animal.

 

Happy eating,

Joey Wong ♥