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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Ashland Hill - Santa Monica


There is no better way to spend a sunny Santa Monica summer than to sit outside and eat. If that's what you're looking to do, look no further than Ashland Hill.

Parking is uphill both ways, but I swear you'll like it when you finally arrive. The location is ritzy, but Ashland Hill strives to be chill. This casual-chic beer garden embodies Santa Monica swagger, with high-end ingredients set into casual dishes for a higher-maintenance laid-back look.


What better way to start your beer-garden brunch than with a classic hash? The Main St. Hash is traditional with a twist. Two eggs blanket a rich potatoes-and-tomatoes combo, while the lamb gives it a gamier spin.



The Charred Shishito Mac & Cheese is non-euphemistically interesting. I didn't think pickled pepper would go with dairy but it does. And though the day was a little too hot and heavy for a thick coat of the whitest cheddar I've ever seen, the sharp sting of fresh shishitos and pickled peppers perk it up to make it a little more manageable.


Located uncomfortably close to tourist territory, I expected most things at Ashland Hill to be swill. The parking nightmare also makes for a hard sell, but I'd come back for a pleasant brunch and I'll be back to try the beer as well.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Captain Kidd's Fish Market and Restaurant - Redondo Beach



Speaking of seafood shacks, here's one I need to stop visiting. Captain Kidd made one heck of a first impression with their dungeness crab, but I've liked it less every time since.


The Crab Cakes are actually pretty awful. Once you get past the grease, which soaked through no less than 6 napkins, you find sprinklings of shredded crab interspersed with chunks of white rubber. Whether that's supposed to be pulverized crab or a fishy filler is beyond me; it tastes like a tire.



The Lobster Roll was fine, but the lobster had minimal flavor that culminated in a big whatever. For a seafood shack with amazingly fresh crab, they were pretty selfish with the shellfish.


I think my greatest disappointment lies in knowing just how much better Captain Kidd's could do. Their fresh seafood had me initially impressed, but they clearly cut corners on everything that didn't come with the shell, and I just don't know where on the road to quality they decided to stop.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Cafe UPDATE - Malibu


I love Malibu Seafood and that love has me entirely biased. To be honest, I think my last review was more generous than my usual because of just how fond I am of this unassuming seafood shack. But I was appalled when Thrillist declared Malibu Seafood the #10 best restaurant on PCH. 


For starters, Malibu Seafood is ordinary at best. They feature hit-the-spot items like the Scallop Sandwich, but these items are far from special. The sandwich is stuffed full of golden fried scallops but it could have done without the grocery-store bun and a slice of not-quite-quality cheese.


Did I enjoy every chilled little nubbin in the Scallop Ceviche of the day? Absolutely. Could I have done without all the tomato? Probably but that's just my personal preference. Did I love it enough to declare it a must-try? No way. The truth is, I probably could have made it myself.


Same goes for the Fried Oysters. Their thick, crude breading just asks to be berated, and it's glorified fast food all the way.

Despite this grimly realistic depiction of what Malibu Seafood has to offer, it still gets a fond thumbs up from me, especially if I BYOB. You can't beat the location and you can't beat the view, but if this is #10 on PCH, the location probably doesn't have much else to offer.

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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Meals by Genet - Los Angeles


Meals by Genet is supposed to be Little Ethiopia's best kept secret, but now that it's becoming known as the Mindy dining project, I'm not so sure it'll be a secret for long. 


We waltzed into this obscurely pretty location with a sleek, simple-yet-chic dining room that makes you feel never quite elegant enough, and opened with some Ethiopian beers. The St. George is a smoother lager, and the dark-and-stormy Hakim is something special.

And we knew Meals by Genet was something special right when we sat down. Our server was assertive with his recommendations, and he clearly knew his stuff. Anyone carnivorous should try their signature Doro Wot because there is a damn good reason they're known for it. The slew of spices sink deep into those plump little chicken drumettes, and the darker flavors are brought out even further with a sip of beer.


We were worried about the Kitfo - buttery raw beef isn't without its risks. But if you maintain an open mind, you'll see that this dish outshines even the doro wot. The beef is impossibly smooth with not even a hint of connective tissue, and the butter makes it almost creamy. It slides down like silk, and the flavor lingers for days.

They always recommend the Vegetarian Combination with the doro wot and for good reason. Why just have one when you can try them all? There was no small number of things to sample, but every single item stood out. The ground sunflower seeds were dark and grounded, the lentils were firm but light, and both split peas at split levels of spiciness convinced this pea-hater to give them another shot. Chick peas and collards are classic, and these didn't disappoint. The beets were crisp and sharply sweet, and even the boiled veggies stood out.

I've had Ethiopian, but this kicks it up to a whole new level. The fullness of the flavors, and the meticulous calibration that goes into the flavors and spice is unparalleled. I walk right by Meals By Genet every time I'm in Little Ethiopia, and all I can think is, wot the hell have I been missing?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Eboshi - Torrance


I saw so much of Sawtelle last weekend, but I skipped the ramen. So it was only a matter of time before I started craving the dish that makes Sawtelle special...Except there was no way I was going to brave all that traffic again.


Eboshi is much closer and much better than "close enough". The Nikumiso Ramen converted this shoyu hater to a shoyu tolerate-r, maybe even a shoyu appreciate-r. Subtlety isn't lost in Eboshi, and rather than being overrun by soy sauce, this broth had more of an underlying hint, which paired surprisingly well with spicy ground pork. The soy sauce actually lightened the heavier crumbles, and it kept the broth from being too heavy on a hot day.


The Mabo Ramen is the best of both worlds when you can't decide between a rice bowl or ramen because it's kind of a rice bowl in liquid form. The shoyu is the same, but adding a mabo-tofu to the ramen noodle mix is definitely the best kind of interesting.


For those who can't stomach soup, the Jaja Men is basically the Nikumiso Ramen minus the soup. Spicy ground pork spiffs up the softer, slicker noodles, and it's almost as good as my mama's zha jiang mian.

The ramen is a little different at Eboshi, but just because it's not on Sawtelle doesn't mean it doesn't measure up. The ground pork is a more concentrated alternative to chashu, and the stronger soy-based broths make a South Bay statement. I still can't say no to a good tonkotsu, and I still go crazy over kotteri, but if I'm feeling something noodly and close, Eboshi will do nicely.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Coffee Tomo - Los Angeles


Sawtelle can get pretty heavy on a hot day, and sometimes all you want is coffee and a snack.

If you're hungry, kinda hungry, could be hungry, or just can't say no to food, a new-moon Sweet Potato Cheese Pretzel is a must. The dough is warm and soft, and a sweet syrupy sweet potato envelopes strings of chewy cheese. I have yet to find anything that goes better with iced coffee.



Wash that pretzel down with a heavy, dark Caramel Latte, or opt for the much lighter Vanilla Soy Latte if you're like me and have a slight side of lactose intolerance.


Good coffee shops are a dime a dozen in California, but Coffee Tomo does have something undeniably special. I don't have much experience with hand drip coffee, but I know it's not to be missed. Every sip is full-flavored with intense body and a head-on kick of caffeine, and sorry Starbucks, but your bitterly burnt beans are looking pretty miserable in comparison. Click to add a blog post for Coffee Tomo on Zomato

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Seoul Sausage Company - Los Angeles


I came, I saw, I conquered, and now it's time to saw-and-tell about Sawtelle.


Despite the occasional side of pretentiousness, this side of the street does have some stars. I usually go for the ramen but Seoul Sausage Company's Galbi Sausage has me sold. Spicy Korean beef with aioli and a kick of kimchi at a not-so-kicking price? Done deal.


The sausage is ballsy, and Seoul Sausage Company has a good set of balls. The Lil' Osaka Ball is a revel of rice caught in the most luscious curry mudslide, deliciously dampened by a small sriracha mayo dip.


Da KFC is nothing like what I've seen from the colonel. The battering is thick, and the glaze is an intensely sweet burn, bandaged by the coolest kimchi cornbread.

I recommend Seoul Sausage Company from the depths of my soul, and although I love their ramen, a part of my soul will always be with Seoul Sausage when I'm on Sawtelle.
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