What’s Hakata Ramen?

Another regional style of ramen you say? From the opposite end of Japan? Well sign me up for a bowl. Literally, it seems like half of LA waiting was outside of Shin-Sen-Gumi. The other half was waiting for Daikokuya, a place I’ve eaten many times. This place, however, was new for me. It opened in Little Tokyo after I moved away. And when did Little Tokyo get so hipster busy?

Inside, it was anĀ  open layout. Communal table on one side and and open kitchen on the other. There’s also normal tables all around including kitchen seating. The staff shouts out welcomes and orders as you sit there wondering if there’s something you’re missing. I couldn’t worry about that, I had to figure out the ordering system. There are various steps from ordering the size, to the firmness of the noodle (awesome!), amount of oil, and even the strength of the soup. This was all before your “toppings” (see below), which they have plenty of. And the food comes out at a good pace, 10-15 minutes for our bowls.

To the untrained eye, myself included. It looked like any other bowl of ramen. “Okay, tonkatsu broth. I had that before.” But if you pay attention, you’ll see that the noodles are much thinner, there’s a generous amount of green onions, and the broth was pretty light. The last part though, may have been my doing since I lightened up the oil and the strength of my bowl. Regardless, it was a solid bowl of ramen. And their recipe for success works. Yeah, there’s so many variations you can do here starting with the soup itself, combine that with their wide range of toppings, and you got yourself experimenting for months. That was, if you could deal with the wait. I was staying in Little Tokyo on this trip and hadn’t seen this place without people waiting outside. Yeah, even before it opened up for lunch.

Hakata Ramen Shin-Sen-Gumi
132 S Central Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
+1 (213) 687-7108

Verdict: Yes, I’ll be back. And this was even after my lackluster choice of toppings. Going to try what my friends put together.


Pine & Crane

I’ve read about this place when it popped up on Eater LA (doing some due diligence on places to eat this trip). It was a surprise to see a Taiwanese place pop up in Silverlake. Sure I’ll buy into the hype. We didn’t have any ideas for lunch. Everything good in Little Tokyo had a line. So why not.

There’s this term called Americanized Chinese food, which isn’t something I’m going to knock. Some good stuff came out of that. Here though, it’s hard to say. My Taiwanese friends asked, why overpay for the stuff in hipster town when I could go east into San Gabriel Valley. The answer was, it was noon, we were starving and a little parched form drinking the night before. Well, I have to say, I was worried there would be a wait at this place given what I was reading. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

The system there was a little different for an Asian. Order your food. Pick out a drink. Get a number and find yourself a table. Get your own water. Decide on making some friends at the communal table. Who knows. The possibilities are endless. We waited around and saw a table pop up right when one of our dishes came out. 12:30. Not too shabby.

The best description I have for the food would be ‘healthy.’ Don’t think it’s what they were aiming for, but I say this because, Taiwanese food for me was usually on the oily side. This was implemented cleanly, without the elbow grease you usually find in Asian food. This may be why it’s so popular. Flavors were all there minus that greasy regret. My recommendation, order the food to share. You’d be surprise on how filling the stuff is. After heading back to the hotel, I needed a little nap. What? I’m on vacation here!

Pine & Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Silver Lake
+1 (323) 668-1128

Verdict: It’s good, but for my Taiwanese food cravings, I’ll head over to San Gabriel.


Chinatown Summer Nights

These events were usually about opening up the traditional Chinatown facade to DJ’s, food trucks, and street vendors, a sorta night market, neon style. However, this night was not only in honor of Chinatown’s 75 anniversary, but it was about the unveiling of the first Bruce Lee statue to be raised in the U.S. And if you have read the news recently, there’s some complications in getting this to be permanent. Whatever happens, I guess I’m glad to see this in person. Though I have to say, the statue looks a bit out of proportion, like the creator fashioned the body after the Capcom character Fei Long, which was of course, a tribute to Bruce Lee. Still, it was great to see this tribute.

We spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking, and visiting some of the open art galleries around Chinatown. A fun use of the first half of the evening before really drinking the night away. They had a beer garden with local brewers and a stage with a live band. Pretty crowded. The beer ticket mechanism soon became annoying, so it was off to Little Tokyo, to Weilands, to knock down endless amounts of beer until they closed.

Don’t worry, we sobered up before heading home.


Once Again, LA BBQ

We started this day a little groggy from the drinking adventures we had around Koreatown. Gotta hand it to some of the expensive places. Some of them had really good pours and as you may know, some of them didn’t. Does it all even out? No. Because there was expensive and expensive’er. Only found one dive bar, but the hard liquor would still set you back $8. It was still in fact, Los Angeles.

By the time we got our act together it was off to check out Joneric’s restaurant, The Park’s Finest. I know Joneric from Tuesday Night Cafe and I remember the days he would bring in his barbeque masterpieces for us volunteers. Wings. Ribs. The barbeque sauce was the most memorable. Not saying the meats weren’t good. They most definitely were. But I have to say, nowadays at the restaurant he had stepped up his game. When you’re there try out the short rib. When you get over the Flinstone’s size rib, you want even more when you finish eating. The food really didn’t even need the old sauces. I did try a bit for nostalgia. And it was great to hear he’ll be bottling the stuff to sell. Fantastic thing for me to get for those times I try to barbeque. Yes. I’ll admit it. I’ve only been a picnic barbeque type of person. Haven’t spent time to properly do American BBQ.

I didn’t have time for that. It was off to more eating that evening. And this time it was for Korean BBQ at a place my friends have been meaning to take me. Genwa.

The first thing that stood out was the service. I usually don’t write about service in my Yelp reviews, but this place was memorable. Probably why it has such high reviews. The restaurant has a very attentive staff and great attention to furnishings. Their grills have fans around the edges that prevent you from being followed home by wolves with the scent you’re giving off. Not like you’re not going to smell like food, but it’s much much less than every Korean BBQ place I’ve been to. Overall, the place was good. Though I have to say, Soowoon has the edge for me with their special marinated cuts. Then again, it might be because of the server over cooking the Kobe beef. Not as melt in your mouth as it should be. So as you can probably guess, I’ll be back to try both places again. I won’t be writing about it though. They’ve gotten enough publicity from me. Just sayin.

p.s. – check out the Park’s Finest on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives July 8th, 2013.


Weddings and Korean BBQ

Weekend trips to LA always means at least one night out in Korea Town. This was actually a healthy improvement over all the other time my friends and I come to visit. We would do nothing but lunch at a Korean place, dinner at a Korean place, drinking at a Korean place, and top it off with BCD, a staple in Korea places here. This weekend though, was for a friend’s wedding out in Camarillo. So we split our time in West LA and Ventura County. Yeah, not quite Los Angeles, but I won’t cover the wedding here. You’re here for the lowdown in eating around Los Angeles.

Friday night, we arrived at hell on Earth LAX and I needed to drag my friends to Waterloo & City. It’s the gastropub that I measure all others to. Yeah, I set the bar pretty high. I mean, not only was the food fantastic (try any pizza and have a go at the pate mousse and see) but the service was great. The host personally sought us out at the bar when our table was ready. And even last time when I was here, we had a pizza that was a little too spicy for us to finish and they took it off our bill. Good service wasn’t about doing what’s good for the costumer, but it was about being consistent on how you treat everyone. Seemed to be ingrained in all that worked there. Hats off to you!

Well, the night continued on to some other bar in Venice beach then it was off to, as you might have guessed, BCD Tofu House to top off the night with soberness. Please thank your designated drivers! Because you may note that the police are setting up sobriety check points around Koreatown these days. Just sayin.

Saturday was the wedding and yes, I did go to the outlets out there. Can’t help it. The outlet malls were right off the highway and somehow I “accidently” forgot my dress shirt. Seriously!

Anyways, Sunday was a going away party for a friend back in LA. Lucky for me it was at Soowoon. It’s not an all-you-can-eat place. It’s a place that concentrates on quality and oh boy, they nailed it. I’d have to say the beef was the highest grade meat I’ve had in Koreatown so far. Surprisingly though, my friends said there was better. And no, they’re not the “gotta one-up on you” types. They aren’t foodies. Just typical people with taste buds. So with that, I decided not to rate the place and added the typical cough out phrase of “so far.” I’ll only do this once solely because I believe my friends. Really, I do. And what better a reason for an LA return than to try out another Korean BBQ place in KTown.

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