Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Schmeckt es gut, Wurstkueche?

Eating auf Deutsch is always a pleasure. When I was in Germany three years ago, I enjoyed many tasty delights, none of which were brat or brotwurst, as they say ("brot" is german for bread, so this "wurst" is intended to be eaten on bread!). I had salads, Italian, Italian, Italian, and wonderful cheese, fruit, and meat resto bars. The food was fresh and zingy - I can remember the site of white asparagus fields south of Frankfurt.

So when I walked into Wurstkueche in Los Angeles, I expected nothing short of the very best wunder-brotwursts they could find. Beer, truffle fries, dipping sauces--I accompanied my meal with the proper fixins' and got down to business.

I had heard such wonderful reviews of the place from Americans and Germans alike. Everyone always asks: "oh, have you been to wurstkuche yet? Well, if you love hotdogs, then this is the place for you!" So yeah, it was a signed deal. I had to try it out.

I ordered the austin blues dog. It's a mix of pork and multiple peppers, which I thought I'd adore, topped with more peppers and onions. What's not to like? Well, it tasted like any other hot dog. Let me list my complaints.

1) Don't call it spicy and have it not require water. I'm tired of going to restaurants, asking for something spicy, and have it sizzle in at a 4.5. If it's not seriously spicy, don't pretend to warn me about it.

2) Don't overdo the fluff. What's all the hub-bub? If you can make nice fries, select wonderful beers, and produce an average dog, no thanks. Let me be. It wasn't overpriced, but if I can get a better product at a gas station in the midwest, I'm going to walk away.

I walked away disappointed. Was it too American? Was I too American? I guess I should go back, as my German friend suggested, and get the real German "bratwurst." Ah-ha. Maybe that's what they've been raving about - the raw-gold dogger.

Don't get me wrong: the scene there was real swingin'. I'd go back just for that open air scene. It's almost like a club in there it's so dark (I sat down at about 9pm at an outside table).  However, this scene is almost always too crowded for a free seat to be available anywhere in the house. Instead, I'd recommend getting carryout at Nista Pizza.. or something of the sort.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Meridian Cafe is well worth every penny

Drop a penny into your penny jar and what do you hear: a close approaching trip to Meridian Cafe, say I. I've reviewed it before, and I'll review it again: this place is well worth your taste buds and dollars embarking on a giant leap into the love of their life... what I'll call healthy comfort food.

Meridian just hits the spot. I've been going here since it opened about ten years ago. Back then I would only ever get one of two items: gordonia or spinach salad. Now both are good, don't get me wrong, and both have evolved quite a bit since originally coming out (gordonia now features tomatoes, avacados, swiss, and chicken instead of turkey on toasted wheat bread with homemade chips); however I tend to be more adventuresome these days.

I've created a revolving menu concoction we'll call the trav-rich-alan-ie. It's a pita mix of potentially avacadoes, hummus, falafel, feta, white beans, 15 beans, an army of sprouts, and eggplant all swimming in an appropriate portion of tahini. Yes, I go back to that dish of health anytime I want to feel full and warm afterwards.

Speaking of which, I've had their steak sandwich only once, even though they claim it's a top-selling item, and adored every minute of it. However, life's too short to not try all of their inventive daily specials at Meridian I feel.

Today they had a white artichoke gazpacho. Don't get me wrong - it still had cucumber, peppers, and tomatoes in it with a good kick. It was just a genuinely delicious novel treat that I would have never thought up on my own!

Also, today for the first time I sampled the side item known as stewed tomatoes. Honey, this ain't your grandmother's stewed tomatoes. These are elegant, large heirloom tomatoes steeped in basil basalmic vinagrette. They are simply divine to munch on. And-if you ask nicely- the waitress will kindly tell you all of the "secret" ingredients in the tomatoe stew cocktail (did I mention there's basil?).

Now Meridian offers glasses of wine and beer and mimoas all for 3.50. What's not to love?


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trip to Little Saigon


Yesterday afternoon I drove down to Little Saigon in Orange County, California. Off the 405 at exit 10, you can turn right immediately and find yourself innundated by vietnamese writing on all the shops! There's a huge grocery store - almost vietnamese mall, technically - in the shopping center, as well as a lee's sandwiches, a fixture to the LA area. http://leesandwiches.com/2008/ 

First, though, we entered the parking lot and ate at the large restaurant on the far side of the shopping mall. It was exhuisite and authentic! So good I couldn't tell if the goodness was from the authenticity, the MSG (sodium bicarbonate, they label it), or the two combined. Needless to say, I'd go back there immediately. I ordered a spin off my favorite item, which I experienced as breakfast in Vietnam: Banh Uot Cha Lau, Banh Tom... think:

except I was forced to order it sans "Uot cha." Instead of getting a sheet of rice noodles, I got a sheet that was stringy (had holes in it), so was somewhat more noodley and less savory. My dish came with barbecued pork and a tofu/sticky rice that was made from shrimp paste. Extremely good! I added veggies (chives, red pepper paste, lemongrass, mint, cilantro, sprouts) and the vinegary requisite fish sauce (wow!) and dug in.

I am sad to say that I didn't finish my dish, but my stomach was not sad. We ventured into the shopping mall/grocery store (looks just like you're in Vietnam!) and then over to Lee's sandiwches. There we ordered mung bean filled sesame balls, some little waffley cream delight, and smoothies. I mistakenly ordered the durian smoothie, which had me smelling like durian for the next 24-hours. I threw the smoothie away in a parking lot and apparently caused a smell explosion when the smoothie hit the garbage can!

None the less, I maintain my love for the stuff :) Authentic or not, my smoothie was strong.

I look forward to many more adventures south to Little Saigon in the coming months :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Let there be food!

So I've been eating out some. Like at:

Beer Belly:
A new mini gastropub in Koreatown. Disappointing beers, funky selection of beer and food.

The spot to be!
This restaurant is nothing short of amazing! Cheap, festive, allows 1 dollar modelos to be brought in from the quick stop next door. The combination of Mexican, Korean, and American really wows me - it is by far the most creative restaurant I have ever eaten at. Dessert here, is a must see. The ooey gooey fries are amazing. Their combination of cilantro, a mild red sauce and real neutral cheese makes the dish transcend reality. It's very different, but good. And gooey! I think they must sprinkle siricha on all of their dishes, so spice-haters beware. Next time I think I'm going to get the "steak in the heart."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Little Ethiopia Restaurant


Last Sunday after a grueling hour and a half on the soccer pitch, I traveled with friends to little ethiopia on fairfax ave. The adventure there was fantastic. The area we found quaint and thrifty. I felt transplanted into the Midwest for an afternoon.

We arrived there at about two pm and found the restaurant to be full. It was a tad smaller than I had imagined, taking up two shotgun style storefronts. The place had a lively feel and a good mix of visitors, a signal to me that it bypassed a high quality threshold.

There was a native-style sitting area up in the front window area that the owners' family was seated in that gave warmth and cultural flavor.

We were seated immediately and welcomed by the menu. On it, doro wat and Ethiopian coffee, which I both love, greeted us. We ordered both and a side of lentils.

What a deal! Our dish was huge, flavorful-to-spicy, and accompanied by not one but two portions of our lovely side dish.

At first bite, I was more enamored with the side dish, but with time it turned out that the deep dark flavor of the doro wat was more enticing. It came with two chicken legs and an egg, an odd accompaniment. Apparently though that dish is the one that's most popular at the restaurant.

I would definitely go back to Little Ethiopia Restaurant in a heartbeat. It was soulful and more quaint than I had imagined, given its namesake and accolades. It wasn't the cleanest of places, but the food was flavorful and distinct and frankly, sam, that's what I look for when I go out to eat.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Richo's Brewpub

A heavenly delight was had not too long ago. The date was August and the temperatures had climbed into the the stratosphere of the 90's and beyond for the past week. When they redescended from the gods, we celebrated bacenalian-style and went to Rich-O's brewpub for some mid-70's socialization.

Happy patrons

I found myself waiting alongside friends, Michael and Beth of the Holladay Platter http://holladayplatter.blogspot.com/. And it should go without saying that, Wow!, we had a great time out. The conversation was quite lively; we mainly focused on the couples who were in our surrounds and whether they had intimate plans afterwords.

All yunking aside, when our food came we were very impressed. We all ordered some appetizers to start: a spinach queso alongside some stuffed mushrooms. Stuffed mushrooms happen to be an old friend of mine. I like them stuffed with creamy, bubbly cheese and spicy sausage so that they are juicy, oily, and oozing by the time they hit my mouth. These were no exception.. they were great! Also, the queso did not disappoint. There was a lot of it to go around, as we had seven in our party. 
A still happier patron
Then came the delight: pizza. Why go and drink beer at any old spot if you can drink beer at 1) a brewery 2) that's known for it's good pizza. That's the ultimate American combination, and tonight it was winning. 

We all went out on a limb and ordered what's called an upside-down pizza. These are chicago-style, deep dish pizzas that are served in an inverted, Western-New York kind of way. They had the charm of Frank Sinatra with the looks of Cosmo Kramer.

Mine was a meat pizza with italian sausage, jalapenos, and tomatoes. Michael and Beth ordered a spinach and banana pepper pizza. Usually I steer away from ordering a spinach pizza because I worry that my mouth will get confused into thinking that it's ordered a salad and will detest the experience; however, their Za came highly recommended. 
Oh yeah: have I forgotten about the beer? Yeah, I have. And actually I have in the literal sense. I had some good beers there, different beers. All lighter - one foreign hefeweizen, I now recall and one fruity, belgian-type brew. Everyone was impressed with their beers and I was unduly glad to imbibe!

Cheers to many more years, of celebrations and occasions at places like RichO's brewpup. They will be remembered for their reasonable-priced drinks, their pizza that was good, but whose crust could use some spice and fresh flavor, and for a limitless option of drinks as well.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Marimauto Market

Or something like that. 

I was thinking of going to the Japanese sushi and tempura place by my house, but decided against it. I can eat there any old night. Instead I drifted here. Lured in my the nearby Indian grocery store I knew I had to be in a foriegn land.

I actually didn't know what kind of Asian Grocery I was walking into. Apparently it was Japanese. I came to a halt outside the store because there was this Mexican guy with a food truck selling... wait for it... Octopus balls! "Octopus balls!!" you say. "Claire, why isn't this the title of your posting?" Ah-ha. Well therein lies the problem. They were all out of octopus balls for the day. "That's a good thing." I told the kind man. Yes, it is.

So instead I had sushi. I asked for canned Jack fruit but they didn't know what that was. So I went for my spicy tuna roll (4.50) and sticky rice.

The rice I saw a friend have a few weeks ago and since then I've been drooling. So I gave it a try. Not that adventuresome next to Octopus balls now is it.

And it was good. Sweet with some sesame seeds in it. But delicately sweet. At four dollars I'd keep them rolling into my mouth if my credit card didn't have a limit!