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Archive for September, 2009

Blood cake, prunes and bacon at St. John Bread and Wine

Blood cake, prunes and bacon (£6.50)

An old friend who used to live in London and now lives in Hong Kong was back in town last week, and he wanted to eat pig products, English-style.  Obviously, that meant  St. John Restaurant.  Sadly, the Restaurant had no available tables on my friend’s only free evening, but its more casual sibling, St. John Bread and Wine, did, so off we went last Tuesday night.

Our chatty party of five felt right at home in the spare, high-ceilinged space, which buzzed with noise and good cheer.  Like the slightly-fancier St. John Restaurant, SJB&W turned out to be a fun place to meet friends (and it follows that it’s a not-so-fun place for a romantic night out).

There were about 20 small plates and three larger “mains” on the menu and blackboard.  Feeling hungry, we ordered eight small plates and two of the “mains.”  The menu, it turns out, is a masterpiece of understatement, because most dishes turned out to be much more wonderful than their one- or two-word descriptions would suggest.  For example, one of our party, perhaps feeling guilty about the meat-fest to come, ordered the menu item listed as “salad.”  It sounded like a throwaway item to me, but the salad turned out to be so crisp and beautifully-dressed that at the end of our meal, some of our group still mentioned it fondly.

whole crab and mayonnaise

whole crab and mayonnaise (£11)

My favorites of the evening were the whole crab and mayonnaise (pictured above) and the foie gras & duck liver toast (pictured below). In the first dish, the claw meat was sweet and firm, and the crab’s brown meat was decadently creamy and rich (the foie gras of the sea, anyone?).  As if the crab weren’t good enough on its own, the zippy mayonnaise was so tasty that when I ran out of crab, I just slathered it on slices of bread.

foie gras & duck liver toast

foie gras & duck liver toast (£6.70)

As St. John is the place to eat if you like offal, it was no surprise that the foie gras & duck liver on toast was excellent (though not sure what’s up with the redundant name . . . presumably the foie gras was of the goose liver variety?).  Hot, crisp bread smeared with a fragrant, rich liver.  Simple is great.

Speckled Face mutton  & carrots (for two)

Speckled Face mutton & carrots (£27 for two people)

The Speckled Face mutton was braised lamb meat at its fall-off-the-bone best, but at £27 for two, I wouldn’t have ordered it if I’d had exclusive control over the ordering at our table (a girl can dream . . . ).  I think my braises at home are just as good, really.  Same goes for SJB&W’s Cobb chicken & griolles (£13.90).

Bobby beans & duck egg

Bobby beans & duck egg (£5.90)

Two disappointments were the Bobby beans & duck egg (above) and the Stinking Bishop & Potatoes (below).  The beans were pretty dull and could have used a dressing with, say, more vinegar and anchovy for a kick that would complement the creamy egg yolks.

Stinking Bishop cheese & potatoes

Stinking Bishop cheese & potatoes (£12)

As for the Stinking Bishop – I wished the cheese had tasted as strong as it smelled.  But in fact, the beautifully-named cheese was too mild to be paired with the mild potatoes (however sweet and creamy those potatoes were).  The raw scallion didn’t rescue matters

Blood cake, prunes and bacon were a tasty-though-gelatinous accompaniment to the yummy breads, and the Lamb, Bread & Green sauce was a forgettable plate of meat-n-mint.

With £60 worth of wine and service, our tab came to £40 per person.  Having enjoyed the vibe, food and service at SJB&W, I will definitely be back, but the next time I go, I’m going to order a lot fewer dishes in order to save room for dessert.  I have, after all, heard nothing but rave reviews of the fresh-baked Madeleines . . . .

For another point of view on the place, click here for a Londonelicious review from a year ago, as well as Dos Hermanos’s recent SJB&W post (coincidentally, it appears we ate there on the same night).

St. John Bread and Wine, 94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ; 0207 251 0848; closest tube station: Liverpool Street
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Boho Mexica near Spitalfields Market

Boho Mexica near Spitalfields Market

Two weeks ago, some of my expat friends and I read this glowing review of Boho Mexica and knew we had to check it out immediately. If you know any American expats in London, you’ll know that Mexican food is our catnip and crack, rolled into one. (It’s an odd phenomenon, of course. When I lived in the U.S., I enjoyed Cal-Mex/Tex-Mex, but eating it was no big deal. Query why I’m now regularly asking visiting American friends to smuggle in salsas and “real” corn tortillas for me).

In any case, Boho Mexica is near my office, so I’ve already visited twice for lunch in the past week. Both times, I went with friends who are originally from California (Bay Area and SoCal), so they were ladies who know their way around Cal-Mex.

three-pork tacos and chicken tacos at Boho Mexica

three-pork tacos and chicken tacos at Boho Mexica

The good news is that Boho Mexica is small, charming and cheap, with most dishes costing less than £4, making it at least 33% cheaper than the Taqueria (which I’ve never visited again after spending £50 for eight orders of room-temperature, stale, oily tacos) and Green & Red (whose carnitas tacos are great but pricey). [And since we're on the topic, I've never had memorable meals at Mestizo or Wahaca, and Crazy Homies would be a lot better if they used thinner tortillas.]

The bad news is that Boho Mexica’s dishes are tiny; their tastiness varied greatly; and the service at lunch ranged from relatively-prompt (and disorganized) to disastrously-slow (and disorganized). They were, however, always polite.

“Very tasty” dishes:

Pan de Elote (£3.50), which translates as “cornbread,” is here served as a warm slice of sweet cornbread topped with vegetables in a light creamy-cheesy sauce. It was a tad sugary, but I’m a sucker for sweet cornbread.

The cochinita pibil yucatan taco (£3.25) is described on the menu as a “trio of pork served with red pickled onions,” and while I’m not sure what three pork parts are in this taco, it was tasty. The pickled onions could be crispier, but I’m splitting hairs.

Tacos de pezcao (£3.75). I remember one of the things that pissed me off about the Taqueria was paying £9 for the fish taco there (and it wasn’t even good). At Boho Mexica, they use plump bits of sea bass and pile on the all-important cabbage. Oddly, on one visit, the taco was served with a tartar sauce-like condiment, and on another visit, it was served sans sauce. I liked it better without the sauce.

Tinga poblana tacos (£3.25) are tacos filled with a smoky chicken filling and topped with a zippy green salsa. We had a bit of an issue getting our hands on extra Tabasco sauce to spice it up a little more (weird because the restaurant claims to serve specialties from the Tabasco region), but with a little extra spice, these were great both times I visited.

tacos de pezcao (fish)

tacos de pezcao (fish)

“Good enough” dishes:

Carnitas tacos (£3.50). I was pretty excited about the carnitas (braised pork). While my SoCal friend enjoyed it, I found the tiny bits of crackling in the filling a bit tough, rather than deliciously crispy.

Guacamole and pico de gallo (£2 each) weren’t bad, but what ruined both of them were the stale-tasting homemade tortilla chips. Pretty unforgivable, even if the chips cost only 75p. [In the U.S. chips and salsa would be free at most restaurants.]

steak tacos at Boho Mexica

steak tacos at Boho Mexica

“Wouldn’t order it again” dishes:

Empanadas or pasties to you and me (£4.25 for two). I think of empanadas as more central/south American than Mexican, but these were stuffed with courgette blossoms and cheese, so we couldn’t resist. It turns out we should have resisted. Both empanadas, while pleasantly hot and crispy, tasted like giant pastry shells stuffed with oil.

Steak tacos (£3.50). How did this go so wrong? Where I was expecting slices of rare, juicy steak, I instead got slightly-grayish, chewy mystery meat.

Enchiladas de mole (£4.95), which I assume was on the menu to lend its Oaxacan legitimacy to the whole shebang. Now, I love chocolate-based moles, but for some reason this dish arrived at our table at room temperature. And at room temperature, the mole just *looked* unappealing. It turns out it tasted forgettable, too. Overly bitter and not enough chili smoke in there.

Agua Fresca

If you’re not in the mood for alcohol, you’ve got three interesting choices in the agua fresca section. I would’ve loved it if Boho Mexica offered a watermelon agua fresca, but the other options aren’t bad: a lightly-sweet-and-cinnamon horchata, a sweet-tangy tamarind juice, and an iced-tea-like Jamaica.

With a few juices and almost three dishes per person, our tab was £10-12 per person both times I visited. At those prices, I’ll keep trying out Boho Mexica because I have a feeling they’re capable of consistently good cooking. Improving the timing of when dishes emerge from the kitchen (so that they’re always hot when they reach your table) would be a good start.

Boho Mexica, 151-153 Commercial Street, E1 6BJ, 0207 377 8418; closest station: Liverpool Street.
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Shilpa south Indian restaurant

Shilpa south Indian restaurant

Last Friday, Jon and I met our friends at the Lyric Hammersmith for a performance of “Punk Rock” (which, by the way, was pretty forgettable). The show ended at 9:30 pm and I needed food, stat. Thank goodness for Tamarind & Thyme’s July post on Shilpa Indian Restaurant. The restaurant is near the theatre, and as a bonus, Shilpa is running a promotion of 40% off your food bill when you eat in.

I’d already been to Shilpa a couple of months ago, soon after Su-Lin’s post (I love south Indian food and so was willing to schlepp across town to Hammersmith). At that first dinner there, while a few of our dishes were winners (e.g., prawn moilee and Kerala paratha), there were also a few extreme clunkers such that I didn’t envision another destination-dining journey to Shilpa. Exhibit A of a totally inedible dish at Shilpa: the “squid pepper fry,” which turned out to be tiny, rubbery O’s of (allegedly) squid.

That said, at 10 pm on a chilly Friday evening near the Lyric Hammersmith, Shilpa seemed ripe for a re-visit.

masala dosa at Shilpa

masala dosa at Shilpa

Masala dosa is a must at any south Indian meal, and Shilpa’s version was a filling and tasty way to start our dinner. The pancake was hot and crispy, and the spicy potato filling was well complemented by spicy sambal and soothing coconut chutney.

king prawn moilee

king prawn moilee

At £8.50, the prawn moilee may be the most expensive dish on Shilpa’s menu, and both times I’ve had it, it’s been worth every penny. I loved the curry’s fragrant turmeric and ginger mellowed by the sweet coconut milk, and the dish’s seven or eight prawns were beautifully cooked (i.e., not overcooked to toughness).

The Kerala fish curry (£6.50), in contrast, had an appealing tomato-based sauce, but seemed to include a flaky, slightly-dry fish that tasted like tuna out of a can.

kerala paratha

kerala paratha

I love Kerala paratha (and its Malaysian cousin, roti canai), and at £1.75 per generous portion, Shilpa’s version is a steal. Hot, flaky and crispy – what’s not to love?

okra, saag paneer

mango pachadi, okra, saag paneer

The four of us ordered up a storm, at some point caving in to our love of paneer and ordering saag paneer (even though my friend from Bangalore points out that no self-respecting south Indian resto should have paneer anywhere on its menu), and happily, there were no awful dishes this second time around.

In the end, the dishes were so inexpensive that I felt mildly guilty taking advantage of the 40% off deal, but the beauty of saving on the food is that you get sucked in to ordering a lot of beer at £4.50 per (large) bottle. So then I didn’t feel as guilty anymore.

The service was attentive both times I visited; and tap water was never a problem. The restaurant’s decor is utilitarian save for earnest posters of the Stuart Smalley variety and a flat-screen TV on mute showing Bollywood films.

Despite all the food and beers ordered, our tab on both our visits came to a wallet-friendly £13 per person.

If you live within 30 minutes of Shilpa and are prepared for a few misses on the menu, it’s a must-visit place for a quality, great-value curry. But if you live further afield (say, in Angel, Islington), then drop by the next time you’re catching a show at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Shilpa Restaurant, 206 King Street, W6 0RA, 0208 741 3127; closest tube stations: Ravenscourt Park or Hammersmith.
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The Compass Pub, Islington

The Compass Pub, Islington

Despite the good number of tasty gastropubs in Islington, it’s still nice when a new one opens in the ‘hood. The Compass has been open about three months, and for a place that doesn’t want to be known as a gastropub (they insist they’re a pub that happens to serve food – whaaat?), the place is packed with dining tables.

Jon and I have eaten at the Compass twice now. Once on a Friday night, and another time for Sunday roast. On a busy Friday night, despite having booked a table for 9 pm, Jon and I stood around near a till for several minutes trying to figure out who to speak to. When someone finally made eye contact, we were shown to a table that already had someone sitting there. Uh, no thanks.

So we had a drink at the bar (the beers on tap are varied – I was especially happy to see a hefeweizen) and waited for a table to open up. I wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere, but really, what was the point of making a booking?

roast foie gras starter at the Compass

roast foie gras starter at the Compass

Seated with our menus, I could see that the Compass is trying to be much more than a pub. For example, they offered a roast foie gras starter for £8. Not a slice of terrine, but a whole slab of foie. At that price, I had to try it, and you know, it was really good. The accompanying roast peach and fig were sweet and smoky complements to the salty. rich meatiness of the foie gras. I should’ve stopped eating right there because it was a meal in itself.

mussels steamed in cider and chilis

mussels steamed in cider and chilis

Jon’s chili-cider mussels arrived in a small portion and tasted much less interesting than the description on the menu suggested. The mussels were plump, but I didn’t taste any chili kick in these, and there didn’t seem to be much difference in cooking the mussels in cider versus a white wine. Still, they were good steamed mussels.

Speaking of wine, the Compass offers at least a dozen wines by the glass or by the 500 mL carafe. I like places that do that.

roast partridge with mushroom cream sauce

roast partridge with mushroom cream sauce

My main course of roast partridge was also straightforward and comforting, with tender meat and crispy skin. But the accompanying mushroom cream sauce had congealed over a bit, so the visual put me off eating it. What little I tried tasted intensely of mushrooms, but I couldn’t get past the gloppy appearance.

Compass roast rib eye

Sunday roast rib eye

On Sundays, the Compass offers a more limited menu. Last weekend, the choices were a roast rib eye, a risotto, and a pan-fried skate. I was glad my roast arrived looking pinkish-red, and the meat was tender and juicy. The horseradish sauce was much welcomed, and the steamed veg and Yorkshire puddings were tasty and attractive sides served separately to keep them crunchy, I guess. The Yorkshire pudding could’ve tasted more of pan drippings, but I suppose I do like my YPs on the oily side.

The pumpkin risotto was also a (surprise) winner, with the rice perfectly al dente but creamy and the pumpkin adding just the right amount of sweetness.

Yorkshire pudding and veg at Sunday roast

Yorkshire pudding and veg at Sunday roast

Overall, the Compass is a nice addition to the neighborhood. The decor and service aren’t stand-outs, but the food – while simple – is well cooked. With drinks and service, both our meals cost about £30 per person.

The Compass, 58 Penton Street, N1 9 PZ (towards the end of Chapel Market away from the M&S and Waitrose); 020 7837 3891; closest tube station: Angel

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special roast duck at Gold Mine

"special" Cantonese roast duck at Gold Mine

Usually when I eat Chinese food in London, it’s dim sum, which means it’s rare that I go out for “regular” Chinese food.  So it was a nice change when our friends decided we should meet them at Gold Mine this past Saturday.

The TimeOut review of Gold Mine claimed that the restaurant serves “Queensway’s finest cantonese roast duck”, and while I haven’t eaten at many places on Queensway, the duck was pretty delicious and lived up to the hype –  moist and gamey with a crispy skin and bits of luscious duck fat to soak up all the dripping-enhanced sugar-and-soy sauce.  Well worth the £9 .50 for a half-duck portion.

After that, the food ranged from “good but nothing special” to “holy cow, this is what gives Chinese food a bad name.”

In the first category were dishes like sauteed morning glory, which was tasty only after we added a liberal amount of salt.  The steamed sea bass was well-executed with a firm, fresh fish, but in a restaurant where most main courses cost £10, paying £23 for the fish hardly seemed to be good value.

minced prawn-stuffed tofu

minced prawn-stuffed tofu

I was pretty excited to see fried tofu stuffed with minced prawns on the menu, but Gold Mine’s version was a bit flavorless despite the heavy brown sauce.  It needed a lot more of the minced prawn to impart flavor to the tofu.

char kway teow

char kway teow

Char kway teow had gotten a mention in several reviews I’d read about Gold Mine, but really, I should’ve known better than to order a Malaysian classic at a Cantonese resto.  The version we had was – as seemed to be a recurring theme – flavorless.  Just a mass of greasy, soy-sauced noodles. No spice.  Unbelievably, it wasn’t the worst dish we had, which honor went to a dish described as fried chicken with chilis, which turned out to be chunks chicken breast doused in more  generic brown sauce.

Service was harried but attentive; the decor is utilitarian.  I’d definitely go back for the roast duck, and maybe I’d try the roast (char siu) pork, too.  In the end, the roast duck was the only thing that saved Gold Mine from being just another cheap, undifferentiated Chinese takeaway joint.

With a crappy-tasting bottle of white wine for £14.50, our total (including service charge) for five main courses and four portions of white rice was £90  (i.e., about £23 a person).

Gold Mine, 102 Queensway, W2 3RR; 0207 792 8331; closest tube station: Bayswater
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the star attraction at Goodman

the star attraction at Goodman

My friend, Jane, wanted to celebrate her birthday with a big, juicy steak. So she picked Goodman for a fun group dinner. And guess who was there the night I was there? Krista. It is definitely a small world. If you go to Krista’s post, you’ll see she’s linked to the half dozen other bloggers who’ve already been to Goodman and enjoyed it.

Me? I thought Goodman was a mixed bag and am unlikely to go back. In the interest of full disclosure, despite having been dragged to a lot of steakhouses, I’ve never been a huge fan of the genre, considering them the refuge of people who eat conservatively — you know, the ones who always get the chicken or steak dish when they eat out, but who still want a place where they can spend big money. (And don’t tell me you can get crabcakes or lobster, too – those have generally not turned out that tasty at steakhouses, either).

chicken liver and foie gras pate at Goodman

chicken liver and foie gras pate at Goodman

In any case, as many have noted, Goodman is Russian-owned. And you know, I could tell. The decor in the back room where we were seated isn’t so much American as much as it’s Old-School Library. Looking around, I saw shelves decorated with books and busts and such. And based on my trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg last year, I can tell you that the library look was popular there. The other giveaway would be the pickled herring starter – an anomaly on an otherwise steakhouse-standard list of starters.

Among the four different starters I tried, the chicken liver and foie gras pate was hands-down the best. And I’m not just saying that bc I have a weakness for foie gras. The humble chicken liver loaned its strong meaty flavor to the pate, making me wonder why Goodman had bothered with the foie gras at all (except to justify the £7.50 price tag).

salmon carpaccio at Goodman

salmon carpaccio at Goodman

The salmon carpaccio was my second-fave starter, though it’d been sliced so thin that the salmon became a mere vehicle for the tomato seeds, passionfruit and salt studded throughout. As for the other starters — the pea and chorizo risotto was mushy and gloppy from over-cooking and over-abundance of cheese, and the caesar salad needed more anchovies for oomph.

NY strip at Goodman

NY strip at Goodman

There were several (grass and corn-fed) steaks offered in different sizes and from different countries. Out of nostalgia for the mother country, I chose a New York strip and ordered it medium rare. Sadly, it arrived more medium than medium rare. I still ate the whole thing, though, because the accompanying bearnaise sauce was so good, masking the fact that my steak tasted tough. At £29, my New York strip was one of the cheaper steaks on the menu (with some of the ribeyes costing upwards of £40). And yet, the bottom line is that when you go to a steakhouse and think your steak could have been a lot better, that’s a bad thing.

At least the creamed spinach was lovely (it’s hard to go wrong with a bowl full of cream and butter) — the best of the side dishes. Goodman’s chips were fine, as were the mashed potatoes. But I think creamed spinach is always the way to go in a steakhouse.

cinnamon-apple tart a la mode

cinnamon-apple tart a la mode

Desserts were of the homey cheesecake-chocolate cake variety. A cinnamon-apple tart, while a bit soggy in the crust, was the most appealing of the three or four we tried. Not a surprise given that hot apple, cinnamon and vanilla ice cream are a tough-to-beat flavor combo.

strawberry sundae

strawberry sundae

The sundae, on the other hand, was mostly whipped cream and bits of pound cake, whereas I’d hoped for tons of vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Oh well. This isn’t America, after all.

With Goodman’s steaks costing £30-50, starters £8, sides £4 and desserts £6, it’s easy to see how the tab adds up fast. The service was friendly and responsive, but our meal with a modest amount of wine per person came to £85 each. At those prices, I long for the days of all-about-the meat places like Ray’s the Steaks in Washington, DC, and I’m unlikely to return to Goodman anytime soon. Unless I’m craving creamed spinach.

Goodman, 26 Maddox Street, W1S 1QH; 0207 499 3776; closest tube station: Oxford Circus
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Last week, Gourmet Chick invited me along to a preview of Julie & Julia, a film that I’d wanted to see since reading this review in the New York Times. Here’s the quick description of the film from that review:

In 2002, more than half a century after Julia [Child] and her husband, Paul, arrived in France — a debarkation that provides the movie’s opening scene — a young woman named Julie Powell decided to answer that question in the most literal and systematic way imaginable. A would-be writer working at a thankless office job and living with her husband in Long Island City, Queens, Ms. Powell spent a year cooking every single recipe in “Mastering the Art” and writing a blog about the experience. The blog led to the memoir that provided Ms. Ephron’s movie with its title and the lesser half of its narrative.

Trimming some fat from Ms. Powell’s rambling book (and draining some of the juice as well), Ms. Ephron’s script emphasizes the parallels between the lives of her leading characters, who never meet. (They appear on screen together only when Julie watches Julia on television). Julie (Amy Adams) and Julia have loving, supportive husbands — the affable Chris Messina is Eric Powell; the impeccable Stanley Tucci is Paul Child — who only occasionally express impatience with their wives’ gastronomic obsessions. (Paul by arching an eyebrow, Eric by storming out of the apartment.)

I’ve read the two books on which the film is based (Julie and Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child and her grand-nephew, Alex Prud’homme), and I remember both books being a lot more entertaining at the beginning than they were at the end. So I guess it’s no surprise that the film, too, started out a delight and then dragged on a bit (it’s 123 minutes long).

Despite my love of food blogging and the occasional “that’s so true!” moment (e.g., Julie Powell’s first blog reader is her mom), I wish the film had cut out the Julie Powell storyline and stuck entirely with Julia Child’s, not least because Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were so fab as Julia and Paul Child. I don’t know how Meryl Streep pulled off that falsetto voice without doubling over in laughter, but her Julia Child made me smile. A lot.

So, if you’re a francophile and/or have ambitions and dreams beyond your current humdrum reality, definitely treat yourself to watching this charming film, which opens in the UK this coming Friday, 11 September.

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burger, fries and onion rings from Hodad's in San Diego

burger, fries and onion rings from Hodad's in San Diego

I’m back in London after spending five days in La Jolla, California, which included quick trips to LA and the ‘burbs of Orange County. I couldn’t get enough of the sunshine and wide, sandy beaches of SoCal, but sadly, my year-old Canon Elph drowned in seawater during a kayak outing off the coast of San Diego (Ziploc, how could you fail me?!?), so all the food photos I wanted to share are now lost.

Nonetheless, here’s a picture-free roundup of three seriously good meals in case you ever find yourself hungry in SoCal (and click here for my earlier post about our phenom meal at Tacos Por Favor in Santa Monica):

Hodad’s. It’s a San Diego institution. And once you’ve tried the goods, it’s easy to understand Hodad’s popularity. The sweet, crispy onion rings are alone worth the 11-hour flight to LAX and 2.5-hour drive down to San Diego. I ate so many of them that I failed to save room for their equally-fabled milkshakes. Next time (and there surely will be a next time) I won’t make that rookie error.

Hodad’s, 5010 Newport Ave, San Diego, CA 92107; +1 619-224-4623.

Hodad's on Urbanspoon

Cho Sun Galbee. My close friend and Orange County-Korean-chick-about-town, Jane, recommended this Korean barbecue in the heart of Koreatown. In the heat of summer, I had my doubts while driving past ugly concrete-block strip malls, but Cho Sun Galbee is an oasis. Jon and I sat outside in a shady garden and devoured Cho Sun Galbee’s tender, smoky-sweet bulgogi, which may be the best we’ve ever had. It wasn’t cheap ($24 a portion), but good Korean barbecue never is. Job chae and bibimbap were also tasty, but paled in comparison. Sleek interiors tells you this isn’t your grandmother’s Korean barbecue, but the food is classic and quality. The restaurant offers free valet parking, which I think is so L.A.

Cho Sun Galbee, 3330 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019; +1 323 734 3330.
Chosun Galbee on Urbanspoon

Nha Hang Van. OC-born-and-bred, our friend (and talented wedding photographer) Lu knows his Vietnamese food. And when I told him I was craving banh xeo, he took us to Nha Hang Van, which specializes in banh xeo, of course. Perfect. The pancakes were thin and crispy and the prawns and beansprouts plentiful. A first for me, Nha Hang Van’s version included mashed-up mung bean which glued the fillings together and added a creamy texture. Also on offer were gorgeous sweet-potato fries and banh khot, which are coconut-scented mini-pan pizza versions of banh xeo. Basically, the cooks at Nha Hang Van know how to work a fryer and pancake batter, and with most dishes costing about $5, it’s no wonder that the place is busy all day. Wrap everything in lettuce and mint leaves and you can pretend you’re not clogging your arteries, but for a “lighter” dish, the steamed banh beo were excellent, too.

Nha Hang Van, 14122 Brookhurst Street, Garden Grove, CA 92843; +1 714-530-6858.

Nha Hang Van's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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