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Jan 5, 2009 04:50 PM

Where MUST we go for sushi, Korean, and Vietnamese?

We have incredible ethnic food here in Queens; but we will be in the LA area for a few days and we are looking for some recommended places for inexpensive and authentic food, in particular, sushi, Vietnamese, and Korean. We aren't overly familiar with LA, but we will have a car, a GPS, and will go out of our way for a great bite - so let's hear some recs (please be sure to provide addresses, though). What shouldn't be missed, and what dishes are recommended? Thank you!

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  1. Which area, and what's your budget. Sushi can be $50 per person or $500+

    2 Replies
    1. re: cls

      I guess I should have specified- good relatively inexpensive sushi. I'm open to any recommendations in any part of the city/surrounding area - I know this is overly broad, but having a good smattering of options would be ideal. Everybody has their favorite, and I want to hear what, why, and where.

      1. re: bennyt

        You will get endless replies once the sushi hounds start chiming in.
        I would say: consider Japanese food and sushi with Izayoi or Kappo Ishito downtown being my favorites. Also, if you find a sushi restaurant but it's over budget you may want to try lunch where frequently prices are less and there are specials. Lastly, for sushi, order one order at a time (two pieces, one piece each.) You will get to sample a lot and enjoy a more leisurely experience. There are so many sushi restaurants all over LA, it is best to specify an area where you are staying and there are undoubtably many quality places in the vicinity.
        I'll let others post specific sushi restaurant recommendations (read fight it out.)
        There are others who are much better for Korean and Vietnamese than me.

    2. Pho Pasteur in Rosemead is your best bet for good authentic inexpensive Vietnamese food.

      8821 Valley Blvd
      Rosemead, CA 91770
      (626) 292-5888

      7 Replies
      1. re: the_doanster

        don't eat their pho.

        repeat. do not eat their pho.

        go down a few exits and go to pho minh.

        1. re: ns1

          Or save the SGV (626 area code, basically) for what it's best at (Chinese food that puts the #7 train to shame) and come down here to Little Saigon in Westminster, home of the largest Vietnamese community in the US. Specifically:

          1. Quan Hy for banh beo and other little bites.
          2. Com Tam Tran Quy Cap for "broken rice" with excellent, excellent toppings
          3. Pagolac for bo bay mon (seven courses of beef, usually $12-$14 per person)
          4. Vien Dong for cha ca thanh long (turmeric and dill grilled catfish), bun cha Hanoi (deconstructed vermicelli bowls with addictive pork in papaya sauce) and the very best nem ran (fried spring rolls) you'll ever have, all $10 or under except large portions of fish which are $15.
          5. Banh Mi Che Cali (also available in the SGV) for ultra-cheap sandwiches ($2.25 each, buy two get one free) and che (coconut-based soupy desserts, $1.50 each, buy two get one free) but there is no place to eat so you'll have to take it out.
          6. Xanh Bistro for "upscale" Vietnamese (much nicer ambiance than normal but prices are still under $15 for an entree).

          There's so much down here...

          Banh Mi Che Cali Bakery
          13838 Brookhurst St, Garden Grove, CA 92843

          Vien Dong
          14271 Brookhurst St, Garden Grove, CA 92843

          Quan Hy Restaurant
          9727 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683

          Xanh Bistro
          16161 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

          Com Tam Tran Quy Cap
          16175 Harbor Blvd, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

          Pagolac Restaurant
          14580 Brookhurst St, Westminster, CA 92683

          1. re: Das Ubergeek

            The trip to Little Saigon is worth the extra gas. Those are all great choices. I would throw in Quan Hop, which is the sister restaurant to Quan Hy if you want Pho.

            If you go to Quan Hy, you have to stop at Vua Kho Bo (The King of Beef Jerky) which is located a couple of doors down. There is also a great place for Che (VN dessert) in the same plaza.

          2. re: ns1

            Pho Minh is the real thing. It also gives you an excuse to go to South El Monte.

            1. re: bsquared2

              I haven't been, but people I trust say it's really excellent. I do remember seeing posts about bizarre hours-keeping, though. Honestly, though there is great Viet in the SGV, I can't imagine ever going there for Viet when there are so many insanely good Chinese places all over the place. I'd be so distracted.

              I do feel like Little Saigon is worth the drive, but I'm sure that's because I live nearby. :)

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                I actually think the Vietnamese food in SGV (esp. in Rosemead, Temple City, El Monte and San Gabriel) is as good, if not better, than what you can find in Little Saigon.

            2. re: ns1

              I think the pho at Pho Pasteur isn't very good.

          3. Korean food: LA's Koreatown is huge. The only problem is that the really excellent barbecue places get a bit pricey (you would have a hard time getting out of Park's BBQ, which is the very best, or Soot Bull Jeep, which nips right at its heels in the running, for under $30-$40 a person not counting alcohol).

            That said:

            I'm totally in love with the naengmyon at Shik Do Rak (of all places). It's not even a North Korean restaurant but I'm totally, utterly enamoured of their mul naengmyon (that's noodles and various toppings in absolutely ice-cold broth). Maybe not the right season for it, but still... Their barbecue is also not bad and they bill themselves as "the home of dduk bo ssam" (dduk bo ssam = rice crepes for wrapping barbecued meat).

            The two doyens of soon dubu jjigae (spicy tofu stew) face each other across Olympic Boulevard at New Hampshire. I give the nod to Beverly Tofu House for slightly better soon dubu jjigae, but Sokongdong has much better panchan, so I usually end up at Sokongdong.

            Have a set menu meal at YongSuSan. How many North Korean restaurants do you find even in the Outer Boroughs? Again, maybe a little more expensive.

            If you like pork you've got to have pork neck soup and pork barbecue at Ham Ji Park.

            Of course, you need to go have bingsu (shaved ice with various sweet toppings) from a dog bowl (really) at Ice Kiss.

            There's a smaller, but still quite sizable, Korean community here in northern Orange County, between Little Saigon and the LA county border in Garden Grove, Stanton and Buena Park. Let me know if you're interested and I can guide you to places there.

            Park's BBQ
            955 S. Vermont Ave, Suite G, Los Angeles, CA 90006

            Soot Bull Jeep
            3136 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005

            Beverly Soon Tofu Restaurant
            2717 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

            Shik Do RAK
            2501 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006

            So Kong Dong
            2716 W Olympic Blvd Ste 104, Los Angeles, CA 90006

            Ham Ji Park
            4135 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

            Ice Kiss
            3407 W 6th St Ste 101A, Los Angeles, CA 90020

            Yong Su San Restaurant
            950 S Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006

            18 Replies
            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              I would skip YongSuSan. It's just not very good.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Has it gone downhill? I loved it the last time I went but that was 18 months ago.

                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                  No, it was never really good to begin with.

                  More show than substance.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Is it worth planning a trip to Little Saigon for the Tet Festival? I'm wondering if it gives you a chance to try a lot of the places mentioned above in one trip.

                    1. re: tofuburrito

                      Go there (tet festival) for the experience, not for the food.

                    2. re: ipsedixit

                      I agree 100% -- I never liked any menu I ever had there. The idea and surroundings were interesting but the food was pre-fab.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I disagree that it was never good. I've been about 6-7 times over the years and I would say it's been pretty consistent, though the last time I was there, I was a bit underwhelmed. But that had more to do with the fact that it's the same stuff every time and I'm just bored of it. The first time I went, I really loved it. It's Northern Korean, not BBQ, milder flavors, more formal than your average Korean. They do bossam kimchi rather well, and I still like their acorn jelly. I'm also fond of their pumpkin porridge and duk guk, which is on the a la carte menu. I think a first timer would rather enjoy it, unless they were set on BBQ.

                        1. re: soniabegonia

                          No, of course it's not BBQ; never said it was. YongSuSan purports to be Kaesong (Roya) fare, which is fine, but the food is just not very good -- maybe it's been dumbed down for Western clienteles.

                          In some ways, this place borders on the Korean version of The Gardens of Taxco.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I really think you're overstating the case... but we'll put you down for a "dislike".

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              i'm a big fan of yong susan. definitely not your run of the mill korean restaurant. the fixed menus are excellent.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          The comments about it being boring I understand. I think they should change up the menu with the season.

                    3. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Ham Ji Park = excellent, for exactly the two dished Mr. Ubergeek cites.

                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                        I love Favori's (Vietnamese) fried catfish, its a whole catfish with golden crispy skin, moist flesh below and sprinkled with green onions, cilantro. Its served with rice paper wrappers, green bananas, Vietnamese greens and you put some fish, green banana, greens in a wrapper, fold it up and dip it in the Nac Mon (sp) dipping sauce they give you. This is wonderful.

                        They also serve yummy Vietnamese shakes, the avocado shake is wonderful (although not as good as Vans, I don't have the address for Vans)

                        Favori is a nice sit down, fancier side restaurant (although great for families and kids too) that also serves classic French food. You can also get bun, etc. there, but they are known for the whole catfish, I don't think I've ever seen a table without one (people often get the hot pot soup things too).

                        Favori, 3502 West 1st Street, Santa Ana (714) 531-6838

                        1. re: noshie

                          If you use the "Link to a place" link below the reply box you can look it up!

                          Grill Restaurant at the TPC Fairmont
                          17020 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

                          Van's Bakery
                          8926 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA

                          Van Bakery
                          9211 Bolsa Ave # 125, Westminster, CA

                          Van's Bakery
                          13221 Harbor Blvd Garden, Grove, CA

                          Van's Bakery
                          860 E Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA

                            1. re: noshie

                              Whoops, here it is.

                              Favori Restaurant
                              3502 W 1st St, Santa Ana, CA 92703

                      2. re: Das Ubergeek

                        I'm not a big fan of yongsusan either. I think it used to be a lot better, or maybe I simply got bored, but the last couple of times I was really unimpressed. Having said that, try it once, since their style is unique.

                        For Korean restaurants, if you choose a place with different combos, it can be really satisfying and affordable. Shikdorak has that, and also Soowon Galbi. Shikdorak is the place that started the rice paper wrap, and it's pretty good. Their valley one (Near encino?) is much better than the LA one, but overall it's cheap and good.

                        SooWon Galbi has combos too, and you get the bean paste soup, steamed egg, and alcohol with your combos. A Group of 5 can get full with their combo A, which is 100dollars. AND you can try different cuts of meat.

                        Ham Ji Park is really good for their pork bbq... yummy.

                        I think people have already recommended sushi zo in westside. I'd also recommend Sushi Gen if you're in downtown (japantown). Really good lunch specials, although the wait can be a while.

                        Have fun on your trip!

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          co-sign on the pork neck soup and the bbq pork at Ham Ji Park.
                          the pork neck soup in particular is probably one of the most delicious, most comforting dishes i've ever eaten. very earthy and full of pork flavor, it reminded me of how REALLY good home-cooked mexican food makes me feel.

                        2. for sushi, i have never tried the ethereal experience at urawasawa, but it sounds like the >$350/pp tab there would be over your limit any way.

                          here are the more earth-bound sushi bars that i like

                          1. for approx $80 to $150/pp

                          my favorite by far is sushi zo
                          9824 National Blvd Unit C Los Angeles, CA 90034 ..

                          at this price point (actually a little more expensive than zo) i also enjoy mori sushi
                          11500 W Pico Blvd in Los Angeles, CA

                          others on this board would probably add kiriko on sawtelle to this category.

                          2. Less expensive --approx $60/pp

                          9240 Culver Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

                          11043 Santa Monica Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90025-3523.

                          3. imho Best of the 'Bargain' sushi places under $50/pp
                          Hide sushi
                          2040 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: westsidegal

                            I would concur, these are good choices given their relative merits. Unless the OP has something specific in mind for sushi.

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              Just a note -- Hide Sushi is cash only. There's an ATM there (or there used to be) but they don't take plastic and they don't take cheques.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                I am a big fan of the sushi recs listed above, in particular, of Hide sushi because of the bang for your buck. However, If Hide is on your itenary I would suggest making the stop on a Wednesday or Friday as those are the days that they generally have aji, in my opinion, one of their better options.

                              2. re: westsidegal

                                I personally would not recommend anything at the $80-150 pp price point for a NY visitor. While I love Mori and Zo, Sushi Yasuda is higher quality, greater variety, and better rice than either Mori or Zo for the same price (usually $100-120 for 20 pieces).

                                The $50 pp recs might better show off LA's sushi merits.

                                I do highly second Izayoi for sushi and izakaya though.

                                Das's K-town recs are awesome although I too am not a big fan of YongSuSan.

                                And agree, SGV will open your eyes regarding regional Chinese food if you're from NY.

                              3. On the border of Burbank/Glendale, corner of Alameda and Victory, is Sushi Nishi-ya. Not really inexpensive, but it's because the fish is fresher that you will find most anywhere else and they have more exotic varieties of fish than you will find most anywhere else. The chef/owner is a master craftsman and the restaurant only serves sushi, nothing else. That's right, no edamame, no miso, no teriyaki. Don't even ask for a bowl of rice!! Nothing but traditional old school truly Japanese, historically and culturally accurate sushi. I've never been to a place where the serving of top quality sushi is treated with such Zen-like focus and reverence. That all being said, the location is laughable - in a little storefront in a strip mall. And there is no decor, which is actually a refreshing aesthetic, but all is forgiven when that first piece of raw fish melts in your mouth. If you've never had fish so fresh and tender that it melts in your mouth, then try this place. I wish I could afford to eat here more often.
                                1712 Victory Blvd
                                Glendale, CA 91201
                                (818) 244-2933

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: creepazoid

                                  Could you please elaborate on what types of fish he usually carries and which ones are imported? On average, how many varieties does he carry? Does he dress up or treat each piece of nigiri in any way? As for the rice, which school of rice does it most resemble? Sasabune, Zo, or Mori?

                                  1. re: creepazoid


                                    Since when is there anything worth eating in Burbank besides Porto's??

                                    And it's right by my frigging office too. I may have to investigate tomorrow. Are they open for lunch?

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        I went for lunch today -- don't have time to recap it now except to say it was very good and was $40 pp for the omakase we had (seven rounds or so).

                                      2. re: creepazoid

                                        creepazoid, i want to thank you for reminding me about this place. i went here once a while ago and it was great. i went here again this weekend after reading this post and it was one of my most memorable sushi meals. i cannot stop thinking about it! i am surprised this place isn't more crowded. i can't wait to return!