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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:

          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:

          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!

                2. 3. I still like Daikokuya Little Tokyo the best for ramen, if not too far. Otherwise, Santouka or Chabuya as suggested.
                  4. The street food is no more, alas .... *sob*
                  5. These are somewhat on the way down, although not exactly ... make your own okonomiyaki at Gaja in Torrance (well, Lomita, really http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2007/...
                  )or get japanese spaghetti at Spoon House in Gardena, or go to Shin sen Gumi either the yakitori or the ramen place, in Gardena also

                  1. Second what the others said. Also Sanamluang on Hollywood Blvd corner Kingsley has a wonderful pig's trotters rice plate, probably the best I've ever had, IMHO better than Lake Spring. Osteria Mozza's trotter appetizer at 3 times the price, is too salty and absolutely can't compare. For offals, you might check out Magic Wok, a Filipino restaurant in Artesia, off Artesia Blvd across from Del Taco. It has dinugan-- a peppery, vinegary blood stew of offals galore. Actually most Filipino restaurants including Goldilocks Bakery should have it. But Magic Wok has a more extensive menu including an oxtail and tripe stew. Down in Irvine off Jeffries and Culver near I-5 are chockful of little Chinese restaurants. I like AJ for its beef noodles and little appetizer plates.

                    1. Since you are staying in Culver City, I can enthusiastically recommend S & W Country Diner for breakfast. Big portions, eggs and hash browns cooked to order correctly, low prices, cash only. Homemade corned beef hash a specialty, good pancakes. Avoid the biscuits -- soft and caky, cut from a loaf -- and the waffles tend to throw the timing off. On the south side of Washington in downtown Culver City just west of where Culver runs into Washington.

                      The most wonderful farmers market is in Santa Monica on the 3rd Street Promenade on Wednesday mornings, but they also have one in the same location on Saturdays. If you go, stop before or after at Bay Cities Deli on the east side of Lincoln (8th Street) just a couple of blocks north of the 10 freeway. Fantastic crusty chewy Italian rolls make any sandwich great -- many love the Godmother, but I prefer the meatball (though it doesn't travel well) or a simple turkey with "the works" including the medium or spicy pepper relish topping. Great place.

                      Unfortunately, the Thai Temple outdoor food feast is on hiatus, due to its popularity causing neighborhood parking problems and other complications. But do consider a lunch or dinner in Thai Town, which is primarily on Hollywood Blvd. west of downtown and east of Hollywood, on either side of Western. Jitlada may be the current favorite for southern Thai food, but for late night beers, munchies, and the inimitable Thai Elvis there is Palm Thai.

                      Koreatown runs south of Thai Town, primarily between Western and Vermont on the west and east and a few blocks north to south of Wilshire. There are a number of fine Korean BBQ places, with Park being the current board favorite, but do search for a thread a couple months back giving a detailed favorable review of an all-you-can-eat place for less than $20/pp.

                      The long-awaited Culver City branch of Father's Office in Culver City has just opened, I believe. Search the board, and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong.

                      Perhaps the best taqueria on the westside is on the west edge of Culver City, on the west side of Centinela between Washington and Culver. Taqueria Sanchez does a lot of good meats at amazingly inexpensive prices, but their specialty is their shrimp tacos at $1.75 per. Marinated shrimp, tasty, never rubbery -- worth a try.

                      Please report back.

                      1. My votes are:

                        1) Elite - they serve dim sum from 9AM, at least during weekends
                        2) Mei Long is good. If you also like dumplings, check out Luscious Dumplings
                        3) Santouka has a branch at Mitsuwa Market at Torrance. Get the special with the pork on the side
                        4) As others pointed out, Wat Thai food stalls are no more
                        5) If you can go past Irvine, my favorite activity is to eat at Abe's Bluefin at Newport Beach for lunch (lunch omakase is $35pp), grab a cinnamon custard danish from Pacific Whey next door (or their cupcakes) then take a stroll along crystal cove state beach, and maybe finish off with a shake at the Shake Shack.
                        6) Farmer's Markets are good. Santa Monica is good, but I found the Irvine Saturday Market to be very good as well. For a foodie checking into Surfas can be heaven, and it's very close to the Culver City Father's Office (is it really open?)
                        7) Most ethnic places have interesting offals or organ meats. But if you are looking for a mainstream American restaurant that specializes or promotes it, I don't know of any
                        8) You don't have any Mexican places in your list. Fish tacos places are a must try and cheap to boot. There are also many English places, and a few recently opened NYC style pizza joints at Santa Monica.

                        1. Thanks for all the great suggestions (so far)! I'll review more closely later.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: dimsumfan

                            I don't know the Bay Area real well but I wonder if they have Korean Pork Ribs and Pork-Neck-Potato Soup like Ham Ji Park in K-Town.