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Seattle 'hound seeks solid/strange suggestions (specific questions)

Two of us coming in from Seattle soon (3/28-31). We always build our vacation days around food, whether it's finding all the best xiao long bao places in Taipei, following Bourdain/Zimmerns finds in NY, or looking for good holes-in-the-wall everywhere.

So, keeping in mind that we're not looking for high-end dining (we might do one meal at Fraiche, but that's about it - and not the highest end!), hoping for help:

1. Haven't had dim sum there in a few years, but used to like Empress in Chinatown and Ocean Harbor (?) in Monterey Park (better seafood there, I recall). Still good places? Better ones to recommend? Do they serve dim sum on weekdays, or only weekends? (Bonus: Where can we find more people to round our table to four, more ideal for dim sum!?)
2. Any good xiao long bao, aside from Din Tai Fung?
3. Any good ramen to recommend? Staying in Culver City, and recall some good, cheap places on Sawtelle, perhaps?
4. Is there a Thai temple that still does street food, or am I really dating myself?
5. Anything to recommend for the day headed down toward Irvine (there or Huntington Beach or Newport Beach) for the flight out?
6. Any fun food tours or events to consider? Weekend farmers markets?
7. Any place doing anything interesting with organ meats/offal?
8. Given the type of food I've been describing, any other suggestions for LA/Santa Monica spots to try? Again, we like unique, perhaps ethnic, unpretentious, etc. places. (Oh... maybe one sushi joint would be good, if it doesn't break the bank!)

Lots of questions...and lots of appreciation for any help!

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  1. Hello Seatellite,
    Getting straight to the point (google or search this board for address):

    1. For dim sum, Sea Harbour.

    2. For XLB, it's a tie between J&J and Mei Long Village (they're in the same mini-mall, so you can have both!)

    3. Ramen: Santouka, in the Mitsuwa food court on Centinela. Second place: Chabuya, on Sawtelle.

    4. Not aware of a Thai temple, but I recall a Buddhist temple in Rowland Heights with vegetarian lunches prepared by Buddhist monks for visitors. Sorry I can't be more helpful on this.

    5. There may be good dim sum or Taiwanese in Irvine. Search this board.

    6. Santa Monica's Farmers Markets are quite good on the weekend. Celeb sightings galore (I saw Michelle Yeoh shopping by herself there a few weeks ago).

    7. Try Meals by Genet on Fairfax for excellent, intimate Ethiopian food.

    Try Sushi Zo (on National) or Kiriko (on Sawtelle) for kickbutt omakase. I HIGHLY suggest sushi on a Friday night, and NOT on the weekends - the quality is much better during the weekdays.

    Enjoy LA, and welcome!

    6 Replies
    1. re: J.L.

      There is the Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights..they serve a vegetarian lunch for $5. The food is great! The temple is beautiful!
      3456 S Glenmark Dr, Hacienda heights, California 91745

      1. re: carriedushey

        Thanks for the reply! Gotta go try it again one of these days.

        1. re: carriedushey

          I don't think people go to the temple for the food, but a place to worship (unlike the Thai Temple that had the food stall outside). The times I went to the buffet the food was on the bland side. The temple IS beautiful and very serene.

          There's a vegetarian restaurant near the temple called Happy Family in Rowland Heights. I've seen monks dining there a few times.

          1. re: notmartha

            Trust me, notmartha, people do go to Hsi Lai Temple just for the food.

            People will do just about anything for free food ... even pretend devotion to a religion.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Not free, I think they ask for $5 "donation", at least the last time I went. But $5 for all you can eat is pretty cheap.

              Anyway, I assume the OP is looking for good food, preferably cheap, not just cheap but not so good food.

              1. re: notmartha

                Actually, the monks are happy just to have people visit, even if they're not Buddhists.

      2. the thai temple food stalls are no more due to neighborhood unrest.

        1. Sea Harbour in Rosemead has excellent dim sum. I personally prefer Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park. As with all the big dim sum houses, dim sum is served every day in these two places. In both places, one orders from the menu instead of a cart. Sea Harbour opens at 10 AM. Elite opens earlier, but I don't have the information handy (I was there at 930 in the morning). If you are looking for dinner, I'd recommend Elite over Sea Harbour.

          Here is some more information:
          http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/ch...
          http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/ch...

          As for XLB, both Mei Long Village and Jin Jian (aka JJ) are good, although i prefer JJ myself. Try both the regular XLB and the XLB with crab. Here is some more information:
          http://www.geocities.com/raytamsgv/ch...

          On your way to Irvine, stop by Little Saigon in Garden Grove for some great Vietnamese food (I think it's the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam). It's not quite my neck of the woods, but if you do a search for "Little Saigon", I'm sure you'll find lots of good recommendations.

          Have a good time!

          2 Replies
          1. re: raytamsgv

            If, like me, you regard no-cart dim sum as the equivalent of eating fried chicken with a knife and fork, I would recommend our favorite dim sum places: 888 in Rosemead, Empress Harbour in Monterey Park, or Full House in Arcadia. Google Maps will cheerfully find these for you. The only Chinatown dim sum I've had was at CBS, and I thought it was pretty good, but I was new to it then and possibly uncritical. As for the other recommendations, I think the flavors of what we had at a recent Empress Harbour brunch were deeper and more complex that those of similar items at 888, but 888 offers a much wider range, including absolutely killer stewed tripe (with the hot oil sauce!!) and wonderful sliced cold octopus, but the desserts (if that matters) are much better at EH. Full House we remember fondly, but have not been there since some major renovations. All are very cheap (stuff yourselves for under $10 apiece, easily), and all serve dim sum 7 days a week. 10 is the usual start time, though we got into EH at 9:30 on a Saturday.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Those are also some really good choices, although I've haven't been to CBS for a long time. I think 888 and Empress Harbour do most of the traditional dim sum at least as good or better than Elite or Sea Harbour. However, Elite and Sea Harbour are better with the newer stuff. Full House is decent, but not quite as good as the others. It is cheaper, though.

              If you need contact information or reviews for 888, Empress Harbour, and Full House can also be found on my website. You might need to poke around a little (they're all in the Cantonese reviews section).

          2. can't answer the rest but gino angelini is usually doing something with offal - try la terza or angelini osteria

            1. For LA 'unique' places, I'd say go to Father's Office in Santa Monica for the burger (best burger in the world, and it actually kinda reminds me of the one Maximiliens in the Pike Place Market used to serve long, long ago...), and Scoops Ice Cream.

              I realise that neither of these is exactly 'ethnic', but still...

              2 Replies
              1. re: CoffeeMonkee

                On the way to the airport hit up thai nakorn in stanton. Light years ahead of any thai in Seattle.

                1. re: CoffeeMonkee

                  I love Maximiliens in the Market...thanks for the flashback!