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Have 24 Hours Free, Who/What/Where Should I Eat?

Two weekends from now, I will be left to my own devices (no wife, no kids), for approximately 24 hours; let’s say from 6 PM Saturday to 6 PM Sunday. Seeing as my birthday’s this month, and having gotten a (small) raise at work recently, I’ve decided to put together a quick solo eating tour of L.A. for that weekend.

I’m not as young and spry as I used to be, so I can’t make this a true round-the-clock tour (i.e., not going to pull an all-nighter and hit places at 4 AM), so, practically speaking, I have ~6 hours Saturday evening and ~9 hours in the daylight on Sunday.

I’m making my list now, with a focus on places I’ve never been before (marked with an asterisk below), with a couple of favorites thrown in. I plan on sampling just one or two dishes at each place so I don’t fill up, or go broke, too quickly. Here’s my list so far...


6 PM - Animal*: I want to hit this place right when it opens. I'm ordering just two dishes: the pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg; and one of the dishes with foie gras, but which one? I’m leaning toward the veal tongue, smoked foie gras, pastrami spices, crab apple, as it is less expensive and a smaller dish, and I want to pace myself. (~45 minutes, $26+)

7 PM - Red Medicine*: Since I’ll be dining alone, I’ll probably just try the bánh mì at the bar. I’m hoping that’ll also save on waiting for a table. Do they serve the full menu at the bar? (~30 minutes, $12+)

8 PM - Scoops Westside*: Of course, it will depend on the flavors they’re serving that day, but any recommendations? (~30 minutes, $5+)

9 PM - Shunji: I’ve been wanting to go back for a while. I’m doubtful bamboo will still be in season, so I’m hoping he’ll have chawanmushi. And, of course, I’ll have a few pieces of sushi too. (~45 minutes, $30+)

10 PM - ??? I’d like to hit at least one more new place before retiring for the night. Taking suggestions.

Here’s a Google Map of the Saturday leg of my tour: http://goo.gl/maps/WmKZ (to protect the guilty, I put West L.A. as my starting location). Not a bad little circle, if I do say so myself. I tried to be conservative with my schedule, but I know I’ll be at the mercy of Saturday-night wait times. How realistic are my time/cost estimates?


10 AM - Sea Harbour: First and only visit was nearly a decade ago. I plan on arriving early, as I do not want the wait to throw off my schedule. Hopefully going solo will score me a quick seat at a shared table. I’ll be ordering chicken feet, bamboo steamed tofu skin rolls, and maybe one other dish. (~45 minutes, $15+


[Argh, why does the CH code keep closing the <p> tag before the closing parenthesis in the preceding paragraph?!?]

11 AM - Mama Lu’s Dumpling House*: On their last visit to L.A., my parents tried both Dean Sin World’s and Mama Lu’s xiao long bao and liked the latter’s much better. Naturally, I have to try both places’ XLB in person myself. (~30 minutes, $5+)

12 PM - Dean Sin World*: See last stop. Just getting a plate of XLB to compare the mother/daughter restaurants. (~30 minutes, $5+)

1 PM - Happy Garden*: Can’t believe I haven’t been to what I’ve heard is one of the best Taiwanese restaurant in L.A. Going to order a bunch of those “small eats” that would meet ClarissaW’s grandmother approval, e.g., dishes with pigs blood, kidneys, or intestines; chou dou fu. :-) (~60 minutes, $15+)

2:30 PM - Mama Lu’s Dumpling House*: Hoping to arrive right before they close for the afternoon, just to pick up some frozen dumplings. Must remember to bring a cooler and ice. (~15 minutes, $15+)

3 PM - VP Tofu*: Technically, I’ve never been, but I’ve had their dou hua once as take out. I’ll probably just opt for some fresh cold dou jiang on this stop. (~15 minutes, $5+)

3:30 PM - UMAMIcatessen*: For the foie donut. (~15 minutes, $8+)

4 PM - Water Grill*: For a half dozen raw oysters and whatever else strikes my fancy. (~45 minutes, $30+)

5:30 PM - Nanbankan*: Thought I’d wrap up my tour with some authentic kushiyaki, and this place has been on my radar for a while. Any suggestions for three or four dishes to order? (~60 minutes, $25+)

Here’s a Google Map of the Sunday leg of the tour: http://goo.gl/maps/XmGu. The reason for the backtracking to Mama Lu’s is because I don’t want to buy frozen dumplings in the morning if I’m not going to get home until early evening. I’m a little worried that the wait times for Sunday will be longer than it usually is, as it will be Father’s Day. How realistic are my time/cost estimates?

Any red flags, recommendations to skip a place (with explanation) or to add a place? Am I being too ambitious?

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  1. OMG Peter - this is an all-time great chowhound post - cannot wait to see what kind of answers you get.
    Of course you are being too ambitious, but that's the point, innit?

    Red Medicine does serve full menu at the bar now (they did not when they first opened). Have the Uni Congee, not the BM.

    Nanbankan is solid but not mind-blowing. I always get, and love, the hamachi kama, chicken "oysters," grilled onigiri and the whole squid. But, to me, it seems like a pedestrian way to end your tour, especially when I consider all that lies between Water Grill and WLA.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Ciao Bob

      Thanks Ciao Bob, this was exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for, a recommendation for a different dish at one of the restaurants on my list (glad to know I can get the full menu at the bar at RM, and uni congee definitely sounds better than the bánh mì; the foie sounds good too), and a recommendation to swap out a place. (Any suggestions for what to take NBK's place?)

      1. re: PeterCC

        If you are looking for something in the same geographic area as Nan Ban Kan then you might just give Gottsui and whirl: http://gottsui-usa.com/

        1. re: Servorg

          Thanks, Servorg. I think if I stick with the same genre of food, I'll probably just stick with Nanbankan.

          (Not sure if Ciao Bob's original comment was directed at Nanbankan specifically, or at kushiyaki in general, as a "pedestrian" way to wrap up my tour.)

          1. re: PeterCC

            Peter -
            I meant NanBanKan specifically; however, I do like it and I eat there frequently. It is fun and relatively inexpensive. So why the comments above? I am a huge fan of yakitori, crazy about it, acutually, but I find NBK's chicken quality kind of so-so, nothing like Kokeekoko downtown for chicken-on-a-stick. That kind of bugs me. But I like very much the dishes I recommended. Enjoy.

            1. re: Ciao Bob

              Thanks Ciao Bob. I probably won't get straight chicken meat anyway. Want to try the chicken hearts (and I assume they have liver and gizzard too). Whole squid sounds good too.

            2. re: PeterCC

              2 musts whenever I go to Nanbankan (which is quite often) are:

              House special onigiri

              I ordered the gobo the very first time I went there ~12 yrs ago and have ordered it on every single subsequent visit since (prob 20+). I just love it.

          2. re: PeterCC

            one quick note about that congee. if you don't exhibit restraint and finish that bowl i will guarantee that there will be no room left in your stomach for your 8PM, 9PM and 10PM stops.

            1. re: emosbaugh

              That made me laugh, but it's oh so true.

        2. You could end the night with a Pastrami Nosh sandwich at Plan Check in West LA but by then you would certainly explode. You are my hero.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wienermobile

            Thanks, weinermobile. Plan Check is on my list of things to try, so that's a good call.

            Of course, the nice thing about this being a solo tour is if I think I'm too full, I don't feel obligated to go because someone's with me. The only person I'd disappoint is myself (well, and possibly you folk).

          2. How about a pizza from 800 degrees? Open till 2am nightly.

            1 Reply
            1. re: wienermobile

              Not sure if I want to brave the Westwood crowds on a Saturday night, though school should be out by then (not that it turns into a ghost town or anything even when school's not in session). Plus, kinda overdid the gourmet pizza thing with Milo and Olive the last few weeks, but thanks!

            2. Your tabe aruki is not too ambitious. I myself am leading a food crawl similar to this tomorrow with friends (Mrs. J.L. & the Chowpup are out of town).

              Remember, having dim sum solo limits your # of dishes you can try (unless you don't mind lots of leftovers) - Ask some friends to come with you!

              If time permits, start your tabe aruki a bit earlier on Saturday afternoon by going to Tsujita LA for their tsukemen (bring your own sudachi, as they give you the suboptimal choice of lime at the restaurant) - they stop serving noodles at 3:30PM. Either before or after your Tsujita bowl, you will want to walk across the street to Miyata Menji for their Italian-influenced tsukemen.

              For your last stop Saturday night, do (1) Wakasan on Westwood Blvd., or (2) the excellent Morinoya izakaya in the Olympic Collection, or (3) Plan Check on Sawtelle.

              On your Sunday excursion (the West LA portion), go to (1) Naan Hut on Santa Monica Blvd. for their sangak bread, then (2) Attari (in Tehrangeles, on Westwood & Wilkins) or their Ash & beef tongue & chicken olivieh sandwiches. Then, walk across the street to (3a) Saffron & Rose Ice Cream for the cucumber ice cream, then. You can go to (3b) Fundamental for a very different sandwich experience in the same neighborhood. Also, try (4) Bar Pintxo in Santa Monica later for some Spanish tapas, followed by (5) Churros Calienetes in West LA for great Venezuelan churros con chocolate.

              As for the SGV: How about a traditional Chinese breakfast (cruellers, sao bing, soy milk) at Si Hai (Four Seas) on Las Tunas? How about knife-cut noodles in stewed beef with tendons at Kam Hong Garden? Beijing Pie House for meat pies? Have you been to SinBaLa (Taiwanese) in Arcadia for their "yeow fan" (oily rice)? Have you tried the mango shaved snow at Pa Pa Walk in San Gabriel?

              ... food for thought... And for your stomach.

              Happy eating!

              8 Replies
              1. re: J.L.

                Wow, thanks for the detailed recs. Good luck on your own food crawl! I look forward to reading about it.

                Don't worry on the dim sum, I have a separate stomach for that (next to my sushi stomach), but I may call a friend up to join me for just that part of the tour (and not even mention the tour, as I may get funny looks).

                I think the earliest I can start that Saturday is probably 4 PM, but Tsujita LA and Miyata Menji are just up the street from Kiriko, and I can easily try either of them during the lunch hour on a workday. For the weekend in question, I'm really trying to get to places that would not necessarily appeal to my wife or kids, or are far enough away to require a special trip (like the Sunday stops in SGV and DTLA).

                Hmm, Wakasan after Shunji, is that too much Japanese? :-) Perhaps Wakasan instead of Shunji. That'll make all of Saturday's stops brand new to me, which is a big goal of mine. And, that may take me to the finish line, as Wakasan is omakase-only and I assume will take close to two hours?

                (Oh, thanks for not telling me to go to Kiriko and do their omakase already! I know, I'm turning it into running joke now... I'll stop bringing it up.)

                Dang, that's a lot of stops for Sunday in WLA. I do want to try Bar Pintxo, but it's another place that I could pretty easily get to at other times. The other recs don't really fit with what I have in mind for Sunday (definitely more Chinese-centric, with a blip of Japanese at the end that I may swap out), but I'll remember them for other excursions in the future.

                Wow, Si Hai sounds fantastic. I was wondering if I could hit a place before Sea Harbour Sunday morning. Didn't even know this place existed. And they have tea eggs! Making notes on the other places, but between Sea Harbor, Dean Sin World, Mama Lu's, and Happy Garden, I think I would explode if I tried to fit all of them in.

                Haven't been to SinBaLa. Actually, haven't really been to many Taiwanese restaurants at all. I've gone to My Way Deli by Atlantic and Garvey several times on a rec from a Taiwanese friend. Been to Yung Ho on Valley (the one by New Ave, not the one by Walnut Grove) once or twice. Tried a little place on the second level of the large shopping plaza on the corner of Valley and Del Mar (with the 99 Ranch) but can't remember the name of the place.

                1. re: PeterCC

                  <<Wakasan instead of Shunji>>
                  Big mistake, IMHO.
                  Different leagues entirely.

                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                    I'm hoping not to have been spoiled by my experiences at Shunji, but I don't mind trying some place new even if it's in a different league. I mean, the omakase at Shunji starts at (or is set at) $80, while the omakase at Wakasan starts at $45, so that right there tells me not to expect as much from Wakasan. Having said that, I wasn't going to have the omakase at Shunji, just a la carte, so Wakasan would actually cost more. I'll have to ponder this more.

                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                      Wakasan = Home-style food, omakase only, 5-8 courses, mostly cooked, priced accordingly (read: cheaper). When the local Japanese expats don't feel like cooking, but still want homestyle casual food, they come here. You can finish the meal at Wakasan in an hour.

                      Wakasan is NOT kaiseki. Shunji & Wakasan are very differently genres. Apples & oranges. Each place is good in its own right. Don't do both back-to-back, though.

                    2. re: PeterCC

                      For the Sunday SGV portion of your food crawl, might I suggest the following additions/changes (some of which is to make your driving route a bit easier/logical):


                      8:30 am - Si Hai (or Four Seas): rice roll (or "fan taun") and some taro egg tarts

                      9:00 am. SinBaLa: Taiwanese sausages (eat in or take it home)

                      10 am - Sea Harbour

                      12 pm - Beijing Pie House: meat pies

                      1 pm - Happy Garden: goose, yam leaves

                      1:30 pm. - Champion Provisions: duck tongue, gizzards and walnut rice and take it all to-go

                      2:00 pm - Mama's Lu

                      2:30 pm: Dean Sin World


                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Definitely adding Si Hai as my first stop. The others all sound very interesting, especially the Champion Provisions. Will see if I can fit them all! Thanks!

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          seems a shame to go to dean sin world and not bop across the street to qingdao bread food.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            According to Yelp, SinBaLa does not open until 11 AM. I'll either need to shuffle the order around or cut it out of this tour, since Arcadia is a little more out of the way than all the other SGV spots I'm visiting.

                      2. Major kudos to both PeterCC and JL!! :D And here I thought I was the only crazy fatty (no offense intended) to attempt this type of ambitious food itinerary... it's great to know I'm not alone. I spent the Memorial Day and Tues following to check out as many places on my SF list as I could, while I was up there for the weekend. Most unfortunately, half of the places were closed but I was still able to try about 17 places in 2 days. Needless to say, I came back to LA 4lbs heavier (worth it, i think??). On your way to the sg area, perhaps you could stop by Guisados...most all of their tacos are amazeballs, my fav being the rajas (spicy!!). For late night I'll throw in al pastor tacos from leo. I agree with CiaoBob in that you should get the uni porridge (if available) @RM. In any case, good luck with your weekend of fun!! Can't wait to hear your report afterwards!! high5*

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: namstermonster

                          Ah, a kindred spirit (we can high-five online?!). :-) Did you make a post on the SF boards about your trip? I'd be interested to read what you tried. May be taking a trip up to SF in the fall. The only thing on my list right now is Good Mong Kok for some fantastic take-out har gow and siu mai (among other things).

                          Good call on Guisados! Another on my must-try list, and maybe I should throw in Ricky's as well, while talking tacos.

                          (Searched on Tacos Leo and it sounds amazing too, with the al pastor on the trompo. Venice and La Brea would be backtracking from Shunji or Wakasan or whatever I decide will be the "main" place Saturday night, but it sounds like it's worth going out of the way for this taco.)

                          Will definitely report after, with copious photos. :-)

                        2. Animal's veal tongue is a tasty little dish but the smoked foie is a small part of it (and is in the form of a lightly whipped mousse on the side)--although far richer, I far prefer the foie with biscuit and maple sausage gravy. It is not a huge portion but delivers a lot of flavor. I should also mention that Animal has pig tails as well as ears available so you can see which preparation appeals more.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: New Trial

                            Thanks for the tip on the foie dishes, New Trial. I saw the pig tails on the menu too, and they looked really interesting as well. I wouldn't hesitate to order all of these dishes if I were dining just at Animal. Decisions, decisions.

                            1. re: New Trial

                              I've eaten all three of Animal's dishes mentioned (except the tongue, a recent addition). The pig ears, definitely a must. I think the pig tails (at least the Buffalo style version I had) were pretty forgettable. Not bad but by the time you worked through the hot sauce, the batter and the dip, there's wasn't much new. I thought the foie with biscuit and maple sausage gravy was over the top sweet. Again, the accoutrements overshadowed the foie. I'd recommend the veal tongue with smoked foie, the pig's ear and the hamachi tostada. You're unlikely to find those in many other places.

                              I see your route doesn't include A-Frame or Sunnyside, both outstanding LA restaurants, well worth checking out. I make it a point to take my foodie friends to one place or the other. (Then, I get to thinking about the arroz negro with squid and saffron aïoli from AOC's woodburning oven . . . and digress.)

                            2. Since I'm hoping to continue getting feedback for the next two weeks, I won't post a fully revised schedule yet. Instead, I'll list some of the changes I have incorporated or am considering.

                              For Saturday, I am adding two stops:

                              First, after Animal (may be adding the pig tails) and Red Medicine (getting the uni congee rather than the bánh mì), while I'm still somewhat mid-city, I'm going to hit up Leo's Tacos at La Brea and Venice before heading toward Scoops Westside. I'd prefer the al pastor taco to be the last bite I eat for the night, but I don't want to have to criss-cross the city too much.

                              A question for those who've been to both Animal and RM and have had their foie gras dishes. If I wanted to limit myself to just one foie gras dish between the two places (to keep costs down), which place/dish should I choose?

                              (Sorry Porthos, I know you recommended on a separate thread that I take RM off the tour and enjoy it on its own merits, but I'm going to keep it in the tour. Can't imagine I wouldn't want to go back and experience it unfettered by the tastes of other restaurants at a later time though.)

                              Second, I think I've decided on Plan Check for my last stop of the evening, I briefly toyed with A-Frame or Tar & Roses, but Plan Check is currently winning. The Pastrami Nosh looks good, as does the yuzu soda.

                              For Sunday, I am also adding two stops. I'm going to try to squeeze in two Taiwanese breakfasts before Sea Harbour: at Si Hai (Four Sea) and at SinBaLa. I'll likely get just a youtiao and doujiang at the former (as to not get too full too early) and maybe youfan (per J.L.'s rec) and/or xiang chang (per ipse's rec) at the latter. Both places actually have wan gou ("wah guey" in Taiwanese--Tainan bowl rice cakes), so I may not be able to pass up a taste test between the two places.

                              Speaking of xiang chang, what I’d really love is to get a Taiwanese sausage wrapped in a glutinous rice and peanut sausage (“da chang bao xiao chang”). Where can I get that in SGV?

                              It looks like Happy Garden does not have chou doufu (stinky tofu) on its menu (I found an old scanned version on the web). Do I have to add another stop? Maybe after SinBaLa, while I'm still in Arcadia I'll stop at Tofu King just for chou doufu before Sea Harbour. [Edit: Looks like Tofu King doesn't open until 11:30 AM. May have to settle for Yung Ho's chou doufu after Happy Garden as it's only a block away.]

                              I appreciate ipse working out a new route for me and suggesting a bunch of stops for Sunday, but I think I’ll keep my original route and skip Beijing Pie House (not really my thing) and Champion Provision this time. And I don’t mind backtracking to Mama Lu’s for the frozen stuff, as I kinda wanted to leave SGV with Happy Garden as my last meal from the area.

                              I can't decide whether to add Guisados between SGV and DTLA, but I'm already up to 11 stops for Sunday, and I'll have gone to Leo's Tacos the day before, so probably not. Well, maybe I'll stop and get the sampler... Ricky's (which namstermonster's taco recs reminded me of) is too out of the way in Silverlake for this tour.

                              I'm probably keeping NanBanKan ast my final stop Sunday, as I've been wanting to try it for years, so I might as well do it then.

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: PeterCC

                                If you are more about the taste of foie then the dish at Animal would be the way to go. In fact, you could easily get both dishes without any "taste overkill" as the Red Medicine version is quite subtle in terms of the fg (but a great dish - both taste and visually).

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Thanks Servorg. I'm not worried about overloading on foie gras; I'm just trying not to let the cost of this tour run away from me. :-) I do generally prefer pieces of solid foie rather than have it incorporated into a mousse or some other preparation (same with ankimo), so I'll likely ultimately go with one of the Animal dishes.

                                  Speaking of foie dishes that don't commit "taste overkill", I really enjoyed my smoked eel and foie gras terrine at Waterloo & City yesterday. Generous pieces of foie that were very delicate in flavor. Read my review of it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/852074 (I also need help identifying the olive-shaped pepper--if that's what it was--that was on the plate!)

                                2. re: PeterCC

                                  Lucky for you, SinBaLa has great Taiwanese sausage dishes too.

                                  1. re: J.L.

                                    It would appear so, thanks to you (and ipse) for the rec. How's your food crawl going? Can we get a sneak preview of where you're going?

                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                      Can't talk... eating

                                      (yes, I know is the CH handle of one of our esteemed board members, but so apropos)

                                      But fear not, for I shall report back (if I survive).

                                  2. re: PeterCC

                                    Speaking of xiang chang, what I’d really love is to get a Taiwanese sausage wrapped in a glutinous rice and peanut sausage (“da chang bao xiao chang”). Where can I get that in SGV?

                                    Wan Chun

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Thanks, ipse, I figured you'd know. Found a five-year old scan of the menu (http://dineries.com/ca/sangabriel/wan...) and don't see it on there. Is it on the current menu, or do I have to ask for it?

                                      Got any recommendations for good si shen tang in SGV?

                                      1. re: PeterCC

                                        A couple of weeks ago, during 端午節, they had it. Dunno about now.

                                        Re: the herbal soup. This is outrageously funny. You're going to be eating some of the most rich and hearty food in the next 24 hours and you still want to find a traditional health tonic? :-) Sorry, no idea of any restaurant that might have it. It's usually a homebrew.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          LOL, I see your point, but I was just curious in general, not necessarily for this tour. :-). I know some restaurants sell it because my parents have brought me takeout but I think they venture out to Rowland Heights to get it.

                                          Re: "next 24 hours", this is not happening today, it's two weeks from today.

                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                        I think the JJ Bakery in Arcadia (totally walkable from Sinbala) might have this or something similar on its breakfast menu....opp, just noticed that Sinbala is off the itinerary! A note for next time I guess!

                                        1. re: crystaw

                                          Yes, definitely. My mental list of places to try grows daily due to this thread (and this site)! :-) Thanks for your rec. Is that the bakery in the same plaza as Din Tai Fung? If so, I may have already tried it way back when...

                                          1. re: PeterCC

                                            Indeed it is! I think it's the only JJ Bakery to serve Taiwanese breakfast items in the morning though. It's been awhile since I've gone there and I remember it being pricier than places like Si Hai (though their breakfast business was booming the few times I did stop it!).

                                            1. re: crystaw

                                              JJ Bakery in City of Industry has (decent) Chinese breakfast all day long - but it's quite a deviation off course for PeterCC...

                                      3. This is just awesome! I wish health, wealth and happiness to you, your wife and all your progeny.

                                        For the 10:00 p.m. slot on Saturday you should try either the Foie Gras or the Scallops with Lardons (about $25 for either one) and a nice glass of red wine at Hatfield's. You will feel as if you have lived quite well.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Lambster

                                          Thanks for the well wishes, and thanks for the rec, Lambster. I really wanted my last stop Saturday night to be on the other side of the 405 so I would be closer to home, but I'll definitely add Hatfield's to the ever-expanding list of places to try in general. :-)

                                        2. Here’s the revised schedule for each day (asterisks still for first-time visits)...


                                          6 PM - Animal*: Pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg; pig tails, “buffalo style,” celery, ranch; foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy. (~60 minutes, $48+)

                                          7:15 PM - Red Medicine*: Heirloom rice porridge, egg yolk, hazelnuts, ginseng, echire butter; add Santa Barbara red uni; a.k.a. “uni congee”. (~45 minutes, $27+)

                                          8:15 PM - Leo’s Tacos*: Tacos al Pastor (carved directly from trompo to tortilla); tacos de lengua. (~15 minutes, $3+)

                                          9 PM - Shunji Japanese Cuisine: Chawanmushi, sazae tsuboyaki, ankimo. (~60 minutes, $30+)

                                          10:30 PM - ???*: It’s a secret! (~45 minutes, $28+)

                                          Updated Google Map for Saturday: http://goo.gl/maps/9Ub0. Estimated time and cost: 5.5 hours, $136+ (before drinks, taxes, and tips).

                                          I pulled Scoops Westside and Plan Check because I could easily see taking the family to either place, and I want this tour to be of places I’d have a hard time getting to with kids in tow.

                                          The last stop of the evening is a mystery spot (just to have a little fun), a Westside CH favorite that I’m surprised hasn't been mentioned yet. I’ll post what it is with my final schedule for that evening before I depart.


                                          9 AM - Si Hai / Four Seas*: Fresh youtiao and doujiang. (~15 minutes, $5+


                                          [Edit: $#!++^ site code moving my parentheses around!]

                                          10 AM - Sea Harbour: Chicken feet, bamboo steamed tofu skin rolls, ginger scallion beef omasum. (~45 minutes, $15+)

                                          11 AM - Old Country Cafe*: “Special” (read: stinky) fried bean curd, pig blood cake. (~30 minutes, $10+)

                                          12 PM - Mama Lu’s Dumpling House*: Xiao long bao, to compare to Dean Sin World’s. (~30 minutes, $5+)

                                          12:45 PM - Dean Sin World*: Xiao long bao, to compare to Mama Lu’s. (~30 minutes, $5+)

                                          1:30 PM - Happy Garden*: Chitterling with pig blood soup, sauteed pork kidney in sesame oil. (~45 minutes, $15+)

                                          2:30 PM - Mama Lu’s Dumpling House or Dean Sin World: Frozen dumplings for home (optional). (~15 minutes, $15+)

                                          3 PM - VP Tofu*: Doujiang for the road. (~15 minutes, $2+)

                                          3:30 PM - Guisados*: Taco sampler. (~30 minutes, $7+)

                                          4:15 PM - UMAMIcatessen*: Off the PIGG (“P!GG”) menu: crispy pig ears, parsley, lemon & brainnaise; Iberico de Bellota crudo. Donut (foie gras mousse, forest berry jam, peanut), for the road (optional). (~45 minutes, $33+)

                                          5:30 PM - Nanbankan*: Chicken hearts, gizzard; shishamo; quail eggs. (~45 minutes, $25+)

                                          6:30 PM - ???*: It’s a secret! (~15 minutes, $8+)

                                          Updated Google Map for Sunday: http://goo.gl/maps/5maA. Estimated time and cost: 7 hours, $145+ (before drinks, taxes, and tips).

                                          I decided, reluctantly, to pull SinBaLa, as it’s relatively far from the other SGV stops. I added Old Country Cafe instead, as I wanted to pay homage to what I hear is the longest-running Taiwanese restaurant in SGV (and I needed a place that served chou dou fu). I also pulled Water Grill to add Guisados. As a bonus, I will extend my visit at UMAMIcatessen; discovering Chris Cosentino’s PIGG menu made this a necessity.

                                          The last stop on Sunday will also be kept secret. It may not be as impressive as the mystery spot from Saturday night, but I wanted something to bring the tour full circle. I’ll post what it is with my final schedule for that day before I depart.

                                          Thanks to everyone for their feedback. If you have any additional comments, please keep ‘em comin’!

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: PeterCC

                                            Not to doubt your gluttony but between the foie biscuit at Animal and uni porridge at RM, you'll be donesoes by 8pm on Saturday. Assuming you're finishing both dishes and not just taking a couple of bites and the rest to go.

                                            FWIW- the pig ears at Animal are sometimes tough and chewy and not nearly as crispy, tender, and crunchy as the version at Lazy Ox.

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              Animals version of pigs ear is the only dish I've had there that I would not order again. Not that it was bad so much as not up to the same level as all the other things I've eaten there.

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                Thanks for the warning Servorg and Porthos. I may get it anyway just to be able to compare it to the one off the PIGG menu.

                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                  I liked Animal's way better, but then they have never been chewy at Animal when i've been. The ones at Umamicatessan were on the chewy side. To be fair I went when they first opened and they may have worked the kinks out.

                                                  1. re: AAQjr

                                                    At Animal, the kinks are in the pig tails, where they are supposed to be.

                                              2. re: Porthos

                                                I was thinking about portion control this weekend, and worried about the amount of food from the first two stops, just as you pointed out. I may indeed eat only a fraction of the larger dishes at each stop, and take the rest to go, as you suggested.

                                                That's weird. I've only heard good things about the pig ears at Animal. Can't believe everything you read on Yelp... I kid.

                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                  I'm also apathetic on the pig ears @ Animal. Maybe it's because I'm accustomed to the gelatinous Asian preparations, but there are many better dishes to be had at Animal.

                                                  1. re: chrishei

                                                    Well, being a buffalo wing enthusiast, I pretty much have to try the pig tails, and wanted to get the foie gras before the ban. Based on the concerns about portion, perhaps I will drop the pig ear from the Animal stop.

                                                    I am also more accustomed to the stewed, cold preparations, but that was actually part of the reason I wanted to try it fried. I was thinking it'd be chicharrón-like. Since I'll get to try it at UMAMIcatessen, and with Chris Cosentino's love of all things porcine, it'll hopefully be more of an exemplar of the dish there anyway.

                                              3. re: PeterCC

                                                No comment on Scoops / Plan Check but...

                                                Shunji is literally 1/2 mi away from Freddy Smalls. Don't know if it's a CH fave (don't care) but they have decent cocktails. Looking at that schedule one would surmise you won't be able to eat another bite at 10pm.

                                                1. re: TonyC

                                                  You don't know me, don't tell me what I can or can't do! Just kidding. ;-) I know between Animal and RM, I will have a hard time eating more next Saturday night, but I don't intend on finishing everything at each stop. I expect to come home and enjoy leftovers at midnight as I'm pounding out my preliminary report before going to bed and getting ready for Sunday.

                                                  Your eyes probably glazed over as you scrolled through the post and comments, but I did put up a revised schedule five days ago that no longer has Scoops or Plan Check on it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8520... (or maybe you're replying to the revised schedue, I can't tell with the nested indentation of the comments at this point). Like I said earlier, even that schedule has undergone changes. I'll post the final schedule before I depart for my first stop on each day.

                                                  I'm by no means a teetotaler, but I'm not a big drinker, and I'll be solo on this tour, so I have to be mindful of driving unimpaired, but thanks for the suggestion. Mayberry Smash sounds interesting.

                                                2. re: PeterCC

                                                  Other then the price and time, did you also count the calories? just kidding.

                                                  I tried Dean Sin World and Mama Lu's dumping for XLB yesterday and today. not that impressed. I would like to see your comment afterwards.

                                                  1. re: Ciao Bob

                                                    It wasn't this weekend, unfortunately. :-( Though I was thinking (and posting, if you couldn't tell) about it all this weekend. It's not until the weekend after next.

                                                  2. J.L., ipse, since you both mentioned Si Hai, and whoever else would like to chime in, what about Huge Tree Pastry for the first stop? Or should I keep Si Hai?

                                                    I was reading the interview ns1 linked to on J.L.'s Dean Sin World thread, and I started reading the other interviews in the series, including the one for Huge Tree Pastry (http://la.eater.com/archives/2011/11/...). Sounds like another iconic spot (or a continuation of one, at least).

                                                    As a bonus, replacing Si Hai with Huge Tree Pastry would concentrate all of my stops in SGV (except Sea Harbour) to a much smaller area.

                                                    Also, of the Taiwanese places still in contention (Happy Garden, Huge Tree Pastry, Old Country Cafe, Si Hai), which has the best oyster pancake/omelet?

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: PeterCC

                                                      Si Hai's breakfast is just a bit better in quality than Huge Tree. I used to be a Huge Tree fan, until I found Si Hai.

                                                      Hope your Chinese is good (speaking and reading) - it'll save you at Si Hai. Huge Tree is more English-friendly.

                                                      1. re: J.L.

                                                        Thanks, I'll probably bite the bullet and keep Si Hai. It's not that farther than Huge Tree. Or if I can squeeze both in...

                                                        My Chinese speaking is a mixed bag. Growing up in Taipei until the age of six gave me excellent pronunciation, but my vocabulary is stuck at a first grader level. My Chinese reading is near-non-existent at this point, but I shouldn't need to do much reading as I already know how to say the names of the dishes I plan on ordering.

                                                      2. re: PeterCC

                                                        Re: Si Hai versus Huge Tree. Depends what you want to get. For things like crullers and soy milk, I'd opt for Huge Tree. For things like rice roll (or fan tuan), radish cakes, crepes, I'd go to Si Hai.

                                                        Re: Oyster omelet. Old Country Cafe, Huge Tree, etc. all have it. Hard to mess it up and just the same, it's hard to make a really REALLY superb one that separates itself from all others. That said, I prefer my canned bivalves and egg fix at either SinBaLa or Lee's Garden.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          Thanks, maybe the solution is stopping at Huge Tree first for a quick you tiao and dou jiang to-go and eating/drinking while driving to Si Hai for their gua bao and/or fan tuan, both of which it seems to be known for. :-)

                                                          1. re: PeterCC

                                                            You're probably overthinking things here.

                                                            The quality between Si Hai and Huge Tree is more a matter of degree than difference. And many times my choice of which one to go is determined less by quality of food and more by which side of town I'm in.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I know, I know. The truth is that it's been so long (years!) since I've had a real Taiwanese breakfast that I'll be in heaven regardless of which of the top three or five or ten Taiwanese restaurants I go to.

                                                              1. re: PeterCC

                                                                Just don't go to Yung Ho. The downhill slide there has been alarming.

                                                            2. re: PeterCC

                                                              Novice here - Huge Tree benefits from having the nice young lady who speaks perfect english and is very engaging with lao wai like me who endlessly stare at the Chinese menu and don't know what to do otherwise. If your reading of characters sucks, Huge Tree is a plus for this reason. The you tiao and soy milk seems standard on most tables. I like the fan tuon and shao bing jia rou - they travel well too. The smoked chicken is really really smokey - be warned...

                                                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                Thanks for the tip. The usual problem I have at these kinds of restaurants is that I can't read any of the specials posted on the wall that aren't on the bilingual menus, but I'm not planning on ordering anything out of the ordinary.

                                                                1. re: PeterCC

                                                                  ... but sometimes ordering off that wall can herald some of life's best culinary experiences! Much to servers' amusement (and the occasional look of befuddlement), I've pointed like a caveman to illegible off-the-menu signs hanging on walls in Russia, Cambodia, Finland, Egypt, Portugal, Morocco, Brazil, Gaza and Japan...

                                                                  Not once have I regretted it. Embrace serendipity.

                                                                  (Although I did once point to a sign in Jordan reading "used car for sale", thinking it was a food item - No matter - The ensuing hilarity got me some killer baklava, on the house.)

                                                                2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                  they also give you an option of black rice for your fan tuan (if that's your fancy). :)

                                                          2. Haha glad my rec made the list. Let me know how it is!

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: ClarissaW

                                                              Which rec? I think I have more than one from your various articles.

                                                                1. re: ClarissaW

                                                                  Will do. Expect a looooong report (or reports) after the whole tour.

                                                                  When you say "Let me know how it is!" I'm assuming you've been and you're just asking me to report back on how *I* like it personally...? If that's the case, what's your favorite dish when you go there?

                                                                  1. re: PeterCC

                                                                    Hahah yep. Mm intestines are the best. Their tempura (called fried fish cake on the menu) is a good xiao chi, anything with goose meat is a must, not sure what it's called in english..but they have a chicken..roll (i think its called "chicken egg roll) that i can't get enough of, + clams.

                                                                    Also, they have the best fried rice I've ever had.

                                                                    Get their winter melon tea too!

                                                                    1. re: ClarissaW

                                                                      :::Chuckling:::: yes their stewed intestines! goose, fried rice, cold cut free range chicken, sauteed kidneys. Love, love, love that restaurant :-)

                                                            2. RE: 1pm Happy Garden. While prices are affordable for westside, each order of lu wei/xiao chi is $4.95, 5am spicy chitlin stew is $10, as is the 3 cup chicken. Budget $30 for 1 if you want to completely taste Formosa for lunch.

                                                              RE: 3pm VP Tofu If you're going to hang out at Garvey/Garfield, you should really stop by Spirit House (2nd floor of Lincoln Plaza hotel) for a beer instead of grabbing the 3pm dou jiang. 1) the dou jiang be in a sealed plastic bottle (from the wall fridge) 2) it won't be much different than any of the 1/2 gal soy milks you see at 99 Ranch. The whole point of going to VP is to hit it in the morning, get hot soy milk, and drink it immediately at home. Also, by 3pm, you may want to pull your hair out after driving in SGV on the weekends for 4 hours. They have Hangar24 and Hitachino on draft right now.

                                                              FWIW, 1/2 gal of VP dou jiang is $2.25. over-budgeted. ;)

                                                              [EDIT: Nevermind the Spirit House stop, they aren't open til 5pm]

                                                              RE: Mama Lu's 2:30pm If you like DSW's XLB well enough, might as well get the frozen dumplings there, without having to back track to Mama Lu's. DSW's much more conducive for take-out & opens at 9am.

                                                              In case you're looking for something more off-the-map, consider a bag of Hokkien/Fuzhou fish balls at Sweet Blanket: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796478 These are, of course, the predecessors to Taiwanese fish balls (which are obviously not Taiwanese), and when done in soups (celery/fried shallots/chicken broth, serve), would be a perfect accompaniment to the frozen dumplings.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: TonyC

                                                                TonyC's comment just made me do a double-take, and I went back to check your existing schedule...

                                                                Gonna have to agree with TonyC: Freshly made doujiang is a breakfast treat for me; doujiang at 3PM (not as fresh by then) is just not my thang, but hey, if you want to indulge...

                                                                1. re: TonyC

                                                                  I've been updating my schedule but not reporting as to not spam the forum so VP Tofu is already off the tour.

                                                                  Re: Happy Garden, I guess this 6 year old menu's prices are out of date: http://dineries.com/ca/alhambra/happy.... I was hoping for buck-fiddy lu zhu du. :-


                                                                  Thanks for the tip on the other places.

                                                                2. Just wanted to add my 2 cents regarding stuff that's been mentioned. Most of the stuff has already been amended on your schedule, so maybe this would help solidify those choices.

                                                                  Animal: Also not blown away by the pig ears. I wonder if it's just more popular because that's where it was introduced to a lot of eaters who live on the westside. Another vote for the foie gras biscuit, including over the RM foie dish. There are several other things you can try at RM.

                                                                  Si Hai: I also prefer Si Hai over Huge Tree. The things that I feel they do differently than the average Chinese breakfast place are the fan tuan w/ pickled veggies, the radish cake w/ their super garlicky sauce, and their salty/savory soy milk (which I know is not really for everybody, so if you don't like it in the first place, this probably won't change your mind). The you tiao is pretty much like you'll get at any other quality breakfast place, but if that's what you're craving, that's what you're craving.

                                                                  Umamicatessen: Not really a fan, but I should say I'm not too big of a fan of Umamis in general. Did not like the foie gras donut, but others seem to like it so... <shrug>.

                                                                  Scoops: Never been to the westside iteration, but I feel like Scoops hit at the right time in relation to our food culture, but peaked a year or 2 ago. I think there are now a lot of other ice cream spots doing interesting flavors. And these newer places are able to better control the texture to complement the flavors.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: andytseng

                                                                    Thanks andytseng. On my draft of the final schedule for Sunday, I have both Huge Tree and Si Hai, with Huge Tree for just you tiao and (sweet) dou jiang, and Si Hi for gua bao and fan tuan (suan cai, as you and others recommended), and maybe the savory dou jiang if I don't think all this food will ruin my appetite for Sea Harbour.

                                                                    Still waffling on the pig ears, the foie donut is a maybe at UMAMIcatessen but I'm going mostly to try the PIGG menu, and Scoops is indeed out.

                                                                    1. re: andytseng

                                                                      Tan tuan w/ pickled mustard is also available at Huge Tree, the super garlicky sauce at Huge Tree is carried over from Yi Mei, and is available on literally everything (I enjoy mine over the egg crepe).

                                                                      For certain Huge Tree's fan tuan is better thanFour Seas (thicker, bigger, girthier, better stuffed, kinda like a porny schlong?) but recently, Four Seas Taiwanese mushroom pork bao has stepped up its game. Both joints have lacking soy milk (compared to VP/VK), but Huge Tree has a superior mi jiang which is a huge win for me.

                                                                      1. re: TonyC

                                                                        Thanks, TonyC. I haven't had mi jiang in forever, so I may have to go for that. I thought I read that Four Sea's fan tuan was one of the better ones, which could still be true even if Huge Tree's is better. As I said somewhere upstream, I'll be glad to just be having decent Taiwanese breakfast for the first time in a long time.