Singaporean Restaurant To Open in Koreatown Location Formerly Occupied by Venezuelan/Mexican Restaurant
Wow. Talk about multiculturalism. Grainivore is opening up on Western between Olympic and San Marino, supposedly in November. Aside from that I'm presently speechless.
OK, I bit. I've been here twice now. First off, the portions are large and the prices are cheap, especially with their 20% off "Happy Hour" specials, which actually take up most of their operating hours.
Milo available on tap from a fountain machine, and YES it's mixed in-house, from the Singapore-originated cans with the swimmer dude on it.
Menu is limited. Choose your rice (chicken rice, coconut rice, steamed rice), then your protein (hainan chicken, BBQ pork, beef rendang, shrimp paste fried chicken). Additional proteins are $2.85? Something cheap like that...Combos come with a side "salad" (sad pile of iceberg lettuce), but the dressing is a really good peanut vinaigrette. Apparently a non-peanut dressing is available, but I don't know what it is nor have I tried it.
I've tried almost everything on the menu at this point. Here goes:
Chicken Rice: Super yummers, pretty good amount of chicken flavor in the rice.
Coconut Rice: Has a bit more sweetness to it than I'm used too/prefer. Had a few grains that weren't fully cooked. I'd get it again, though.
Steamed Rice: Have not tried; why pay someone for steamed rice I can so easily make myself?
BBQ Pork: good, generous portion, but a little sweet, and I think there's a little too much starch in the sauce.
Beef Rendang: good portion, tasted pretty good! Had chunks of ginger and lemongrass in there. I don't have a point of reference with this dish, but it tasted good to me.
Shrimp Paste Fried Chicken: Not much shrimp paste flavor. But it's good...just not Kyochon good, and in K-Town, that's a problem.
Hainan Chicken: I don't have too much of a basis for comparison, having had Hainan Chicken at Litz once, and then homemade by a Singaporean friend, who called his rendition "about a 6 out of 10." Grainivore's Hainan Chicken was served cold, but without bones or skin on the chicken. Dipping sauces include a thick dark soy sauce, a pureed ginger sauce, and an orange spicy/sour sauce.
Over the next few months they anticipate adding a few things to their menu.
Overall, I liked it, and the price was beyond right (read: I'd have paid more), but I worry about their longevity simply due to the fact that their hours are only M-Sat Noon-8pm, and both times I've been in, the owner wasn't there. The Happy Hour pricing is a 20% discount during the majority of their opening hours, yelp checkins get you a free soda, they sprang for a fancy POS system...I don't know, I just get the idea this is a restaurant that should have been a food truck, at least at first.
Anyone else been, yet?
We went this week. They are getting a good crowd later in the day, when we arrived a large group of Students met up and were gushing about the meal. For many of them, it was a return trip. They literally are just weeks old and I think this is JUST what Koreatown needs. There are so few places to really get a quick good bite without the guilt from the waste of Ban Chan.
Overall, we thoughts it was good. Not great. But a welcome substitute for our other quick rice dinner place, Bento Man.
We tried both the chicken rice and the coconut rice. I perferred the coconut rice for its clean coconut flavor. The chicken rice had good flavor, but it really missing that slight unctuousness from real Hainan Chicken Rice. I would totally get a cup of that coconut rice to go on its own.
We got the Randang and Hainan Chicken. The Randang was good. They are using a great spice base, bit it's hardly the best in the city. Even Banana Leaf in the Farmer's Market is better. But it is hardly the worst I've had and certainly scratches the itch of the unique Randang flavor (which I crave more than the curries at placed like Issan Station, which I do like very much for other dishes). The Hainan chicken was served pretty much as a clump of slices. Not the prettiest presentation, but VERY velvety. It reminded me of my favorite thing on earth... Crockpot Whole Chicken. In fact, this inspired me to make my own Low Country Hainan Chicken... LOL!
We LOVED The Shrimp Paste Chicken. We got a side, which was a cup of about 4 wing pieces for $2.49, which we felt was certainly a good value. We felt that you could certainly taste the shrimp paste (But I am sensitive to seafood flavors), but it was well balanced. What surprised us the most, is that although crisp, the chicken was moist and tender. Certainly one of the best chicken wings I've had in a very long time.
"Milo available on tap from a fountain machine, and YES it's mixed in-house, from the Singapore-originated cans with the swimmer dude on it."
Sounds like a decent start so far, but it's kind of a bummer they completely ignored the kopitiam niche (one thing that is completely absent in socal).
I'll try soon I guess, but man.. that's a small menu.
Anyways, here's a few pics of chicken rice I had in singapore, including tian tian, boon tong kee, chatterbox, and a bunch of hawker center ones.. for a visual comparison