Eight Days of Cheap Eats in LA: Report back from DC Chowhound
DC Chowhound just back from eight days of eating terrifically cheap, wonderful food. LA is a whole new level of hole-in-the wall eating. I was guided by the esteemed Mr. Taster who accompanied me on my first day. Here is where I ate in chronological order:
Beijing Pie House, SGV
101 Noodle Express, SGV
El Mercadito (for raspados and gordita)
Trompo taco truck at Melrose and Manhattan Pl. carwash
Café at Getty Villa
Abraham Partamian Bakery
Cemitas Poblano truck (“El Delfin”) at 5469 W. Adams – Food Mart
Blue Bayou – Disneyland
Ma’s Islamic - Anaheim
Bamboo Island, Cambodian, Long Beach
Vien Dong - Garden Grove
Casita Mexicana - Bell
Zam Zam Market
Five super highlights:
Xian Bing at Beijing Pie House, both the lamb and the fennel/pork were outrageous and I appreciated the difference between the fattiness of the lamb and the fresh, grassy flavor of the fennel.
Beef Roll at 101 Noodle. Great with nothing added, but even greater with the chili oil.
Monte Cristo Sandwich at Blue Bayou – about 100 million calories…. per bite. Disney has perfected deep fried, stuffed French Toast.
Thick sesame bread with green onions at Ma’s Islamic – worth the trip across the country.
Cha Ca Thang Long at Vien Dong - Holey Moley! A hefty supply of deliciousness that you can vary with each bowlful. Crispy vegetables, toasted peanuts, what more could I ask? This was quite a big portion, and that was just the regular.
And five low-lights:
Yamashiro has got to be the worst value restaurant in the United States of America. Is there an even worse value restaurant in other countries? Probably not….. unless there is a branch of Yamashiro in other countries. I do not need my raw fish sweetened. The corn syrup was flowing mightily. And, to make matters worse, I don’t think LA is a great skyline to be looking over at night. Maybe during the day, but at night it’s boring. Taken here by friends. They are still my friends, but now I have less money to send my son to college.
Chili Relleno at Casablanca. Taken here by family. I dearly love them, so I will not say more.
Lahmajune at Partamian: a bad flour tortilla with a tasteless topping.
Zha jiang mian at Beijing Pie House. Insipid glop.
Lamb and jalapeno at Ma’s Islamic – ruined by an overly salty gloppy sauce, I thought it would be dry-fried, but I forgot to verify with the waiter. Three flavor wonton soup was also basically brown salt water despite the excellent wontons and other solid ingredients.
Since there is precious little Chowhound info on the Cambodian scene in Long Beach, I’d like to add my experience. Bamboo Island was chosen in the true Chowhound tradition of exploration. I had nothing to go on. This is a spacious dive which looks like it is set up for karaoke in the evenings. Many snapshots displayed of a happy throng of customers. I was the only one having lunch on Saturday; one person came in for take-out. There was anchovy on the menu, and I ordered a “beef anchovy” dish. This turns out to be two dishes in one: a big pile of beautifully grilled, thickly-sliced tender steak and a salad of mostly thai eggplant, with black olives, red pepper, cilantro, some jalapeno, in a sauce made with anchovy paste. Very little or no anchovy flavor, but I have to say the food was rockin’. I am sure this bares little resemblance to eating in Cambodia, but I can find no flaw in the quality, especially the extremely fragrant jasmine rice.
And finally…. Breakfast Chowdown:
Chilaquiles at Pepy’s Galley vs the Chorizo Bowl at Ronnie’s Diner.
No Contest, the chorizo bowl wins hands down. The waitress prompted me to get the potatoes extra crispy, and these really set apart the dish and brought it to another level. The chorizo bowl is not on the menu, so this is a kind of a Chowhound exclusive. A glorious mess of food.
Fantastic report. The beef rolls at 101 Noodle Express are one of my favorite food items ever. =)
Not sure where you stayed in LA, but do you think the Cambodian food in Long Beach was worth the trek? I've had Burmese (I think). Wonder if they're very similar (I enjoyed the Burmese I had, but it tasted like a rather curious mix of Thai, Chinese, w/ perhaps a touch of Indian?).
I'm no expert on Cambodian cuisine but I was taken to a really good restaurant in San Gabriel by a Cambodian girl once.
The fish curry/paste was really good which you eat with raw vegetables. There was also a wild boar dish if I remember correctly.
Not sure if it's closer for you.
I miss good khmer cuisine. We visited Phnom Penh / Angkor Wat a few years back and loved, loved the food! Thanks for reminding me.
Burmese is very different from Cambodia, in food, in history, in culture. Don't mix it up - Them can be fightin' words!
Again we see that Yamashiro continues to suck. Bad.
I stayed in two places, Culver City and Anaheim. I always have a pretext to go places, in this case I wanted to go to Rancho Los Alamitos and the Museum of Latin American Art, both in Long Beach. The first was worth it, the second unfortunately had two monotonous photography exhibits, and almost nothing else from the permanent collection.
In terms of food, was it worth it? it was thoroughly delicious but not transportive, and I was disappointed that no anchovies were sacrificed in making my dish. It could be that my meal was not indicative of what you'd normally get in Little Cambodia.
Not at all similar to Burmese which has multiple influences, as you point out.
Thanks for the responses, everyone.
SGV is not necessarily closer than Long Beach, but I'm much more familiar w/ the former, which might be the deciding factor in terms of which one I might go to....
I know so little about SE Asian cuisine, which is why I asked! =) When people refer to Khmer cuisine, is that used interchangeably w/ "Cambodian," or are there regional specialties w/i the country?
I do remember that noahbites "project!" And I actually remember his post. I do wonder if I'd find the "burnt" fish paste undercurrent to be off-putting....
Steve, I'm rather saddened by your friends taking you to Yamashiro and expecting you to pay for yourself! =(
Too bad you weren't able to substitute Yamashiro for some better Japanese, which LA has in spades. I think LA has a unique view -- both night and day -- and can really be enjoyed from the Getty Center.
Next time you make it out to SGV, try some dumplings at JTYH, Luscious, or some chiu-chou food at Seafood Village.
Thanks for asking. I didn't want to overload my OP with info!
Other highlights include the trompo tacos - only one place where I can get those back home, and these were better seasoned. The array of toppings was outstanding - you'd think they were losing money!
Casita Mexicana is a nice place with good food - though I felt the desserts (flan with rompopo and rice pudding inside a crispy hot tortilla) were the best part. I actively disliked a sweet potato soup and the three sauces served on the tortillas were surprisingly bland to me. We went with a cochinita pibil and a braised beef dish. Salsas were excellent.
Zam Zam only had two dishes available: a ground beef kabob and chicken biryani, both very satisfying but nothing out of the ordinary.
The choices at El Mercadito were just ok. I make better carnitas than the filling of the gordita, and the raspados were nice, but again not thrilling.
The cemita with milanesa de pollo was a mighty fine sandwich.
Another voice giving testimony to the chorizo bowl http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/859243#7745274 and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/859243#7900073 and http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8592... at Ronnie's - which I'm sure I have sung the praises of enough times that it has made the eyes of those reading along glaze over...So thanks for adding your independent, completely unbiased vote!
Great report and absolutely prodigious hounding.