March 19, 2013
Even though I don’t mention it often enough on this blog, I adore Korean food. I consider Korean food to be one of my favorite cuisines and soondubu, in particular, to be one of the ultimate comfort foods, just one step below home-cooked meals from the mom. It’s surprising that I feel so strongly about both seeing that I was only introduced to Korean food relatively recently (when compared to the other staples in my life). However, I have no doubt that my love stems from that first Korean meal a little more than 10 years ago…
First, to preface: the parents are not “foodies” by any means. They can eat the same thing for lunch and dinner week after week and be perfectly content. They definitely don’t go out of their way for food.
However, when my extended family came in town that particular weekend and we began playing the “Where should we go for dinner?” game, they decided that we would drive almost an hour to BCDs for dinner. (At the time, they had never had Korean tofu themselves either. Since then though, they have embraced soondubu as closely as I have.)
My memory is honestly a bit blurry but what I do remember vividly is this:
Hunger in my stomach before dinner.
Relief and satisfaction upon that first bite of bubbling tofu and rice.
Warmth from being surrounded by family, now happy and full.
Peace in being exactly where I wanted to be.
That bowl of tofu was “home”.
Eating soondubu at Beverly Soon Tofu transports me back to that moment.
When I was still working in public accounting, there were nights when I felt like I was going to collapse (physically, mentally, emotionally)…those were the nights I’d go to Beverly Soon Tofu.
I’d walk into that small and homey restaurant just off of Olympic and Vermont and hide myself in the corner, behind an old wood table. I always ordered the same thing: Seafood soondubu. Spicy.
The nice women working there would then bring barley water and banchan. The banchan was simple but comforting, somewhat ordinary but absolutely delicious.
Soon after the banchan, the soondubu would arrive, piping hot and about to bubble over the sides. With a bowl of rice in one hand and a spoon in the other, I would dig into the silky tofu filled with plump mussels and clams and tender squid and octopus. I would crunch on small shrimp and slurp the runny yolk of an egg. I would shovel banchan, tofu and rice into my mouth until my belly was full, until my body was warm…until I felt like I did after that very first bowl. Even if it was just for a split second, I was at peace and I was happy.
TL;DR: Sometimes food is more than just food. It can transport you.
Beverly Soon Tofu
2717 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
January 30, 2013
(Surprised at all by the timing of this post? You shouldn’t be. We are talking about me after all. At least I got it in before the end of January!)
2012 was a spectacular year.
Whether I was gracefully sitting behind white linen dressed tables or squatting on a plastic stool on a dirty curb, the food I ate this year was absolutely and utterly spectacular. Sadly, pretty much none it has actually made it onto this blog, but my mind and stomach (and hard drive, since I did remember to take pictures!) remember the meals well.
Here’s a peek of it all…
The Food Ledger’s Best of 2012
(And now for the annual disclaimer: Blah blah blah…Only includes restaurants I ate at for the first time in 2012…Blah blah blah…Whatever. You get the point by now.)
Fine Dining Rocks My Socks
(Alinea’s truffle explosion. Note: Heed your server’s instructions. It actually will explode.)
- Alinea (Chicago) – When I first heard of Alinea’s tasting menu, it was described as either an eye-opening revelation or a completely pretentious bore. Now that I’ve experienced it, I can say it’s anything but the latter. The experience is novel and whimsical and simply a lot of fun! In retrospect, I think I was giggling like a school-girl during at least 50% of my meal. Worth every damn penny.
- Benu (SF) – How does Benu not have 3 Michelin stars? The fact that they were able to seamlessly morph the flavors of my Chinese childhood into precise, immaculately created courses – it boggles my mind. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so emotionally touched by a meal. Just amazing.
Hide Away in a Hole In The Wall
(I miss LA Mexican food.)
- Guisados (LA) – If you’ve figured out anything by reading this site, it’s that I’m a girl of texture. And, there’s no better textural bite than the gelatinous stewed chicarron and the hearty chew of homemade tortillas at Guisados. It’s places like this that make me miss living in LA.
- Chunju Han-il Kwan (LA) – Any place that servces budae jjigae – a soup made of kimchi, spam, hot dogs, ramen noodles, rice cakes and random veggies – must be a hole-in-the-wall. Get a pot of it roaring on a portable burner and one of Chunju’s enormous kimchi pancakes, and you’ll have enough food to easily feed a family of 4. (Note: We only had a party of 2. Oops!)
One Bite and I’m Yours
(If only all vegetable dishes tasted this good.)
- The Dutch (NYC) – Whenever I just want that little *something* – a burst of flavor to suppress an irresistible food craving – I just order one of their oyster sliders and I’m immediately satisfied. They really are the perfect bite.
- Northern Spy Food Co. (NYC) – I’ve figured out the secret behind why their kale salad is so freaking addicting: Hidden in between those healthy kale leaves and that sweet roasted squash is cheese. Lots of cheese. I’m not complaining, mind you, I’m just stating a fact. Also a fact? Northern Spy Food’s kale (and cheese!) salad may be one of my favorite salads of all time.
- Bon Chovie (NYC) – It’s one of my few must-go vendors at Smorgasburg…I could munch on their Jersey-style (head-on) anchovies all day.
I Can’t Live Without
(I always tell myself to order something besides their Umi No Sachi…Hasn’t happened yet though.)
- Sushi Yasaka (NYC) – Nothing’s changed since that last post; Sushi Yasaka is still my favorite sushi joint in the entire island of Manhattan.
Best Foodcation…Ever. Period.
(If I could eat the Lunch Lady’s noodles every single day, I would die happy.)
- Everything (Vietnam) – There’s something about being in a foreign country, walking into a restaurant (or in most cases, an open stall) where no one really speaks English, pointing at things without knowing exactly what they are and getting the most amazing food in return. I still don’t know half of what I ate in Vietnam, all I know is that every bite was comforting and unique and just completely delicious. If you ever get the opportunity to go yourself, eat at the places on the street – if you play the safe route and eat like a tourist, you’ll miss out on all that country has to offer (which is a hell of a lot!).
Almost…But Not Quite
(The hangover breakfast of gods.)
- Avec (Chicago) – I’ve only been to Avec once but it’s clear to me that it’s basically the “good for any occasion” restaurant. Have company in town? Go to Avec. Want a nice dinner out? Go to Avec. The food was delicious, the prices were reasonable and the staff was incredibly helpful. For example, when they didn’t have the bottle of wine we wanted on hand, they recommended another great one that was only a 1/3 of the cost. Wait, so you’re not going to price gouge me and really just want to make sure I have a great time? I’m going to Avec.
- Korzo Haus (NYC) – I love me a good veggie burger, and Korzo Haus has served me my favorite veggie burger to date. Now, as a disclaimer, that could be due to my addition of bacon to that veggie burger but hey! It’s still a veggie burger and still my favorite. Plus, they make their “ketchup” out of beets! BEETS!!
- Barney’s Greengrass (NYC) – When I’m hungover, like REALLY hungover, I always want Barney’s Greengrass. I don’t usually make it there (dude, it takes effort getting out of bed!) but I always want it nonetheless. Eggs scrambled with smoked sturgeon, an everything bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee = Protein, salt, carbs, fat and caffeine. Do you need anything else?
- Baco Mercat (LA) – I remember when bacos first appeared in LA on the menu at Lazy Ox; I was never able to get my hands on one back then because they always sold out! However, now that I’ve eaten one at I see why – because huge, tender chunks of beef and fried hunks of pork belly stuffed between flatbread are delicious. There’s a fantastic spread of vegetable dishes on the menu too so, even if you aren’t a meat-lover, there’s going to be something that appeals to you!
October 4, 2012
I love Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles. No, really, I do. I used to eat there at least once a week (if not more) and I still go there now whenever I’m craving a bowl of noodles.
…But I have to admit the truth: It really isn’t THAT good.
I’m completely torn.
(Does that broth look like it has the deep hue of a rich beef noodle soup? Sadly, no.)
It’s their broth – their broth drags them down. Is it bad? No, but it’s not great either. It’s not savory, not rich, not meaty enough. (Luckily, it is also not very greasy so it’s great for a hangover, as I can attest.) It’s “meh” in liquid form; average at its best.
And it’s such a shame that the broth stinks cause I’m madly in love with their knife cut noodles! Those slivers shaved from a ball of dough with their thin, squiggly edges and thicker innards have the texture and chewiness that I crave. The springiness of the dough in each bite…if only I could fully enjoy it in a decent hot soup!
TL;DR: Go for the noodles, not for the soup.
Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles
1 Doyers St
New York, NY 10013
August 22, 2012
Everyone has their go-to sushi restaurant – Sushi Yasaka is mine.
(Btw, can someone please explain to me the difference between “umi no sachi” and “chirashi”?)
Every time I go, I always order the same thing: their umi no sachi, an overflowing bowl of sashimi over rice, for $26. We’re talking well over a dozen pieces of fish, an assortment of egg and roe and, in most cases, a raw oyster on the side. (There’s a picture – count it yourself!) Most importantly though, every piece I’ve eaten here has been FRESH. There has never been a questionable piece; you know, the one that put in your mouth and then can’t help but wonder if you should swallow? Never. All I’ve ever tasted is clean, sweet, fresh fish.
Considering that’s the approximately the same price other sushi places charge for a mediocre chirashi bowl (and trust me, I’ve had more than my share of mediocre chirashi), Sushi Yasaka is a steal.
251 West 72nd Street
New York, NY 10023
August 13, 2012
Whenever people tell me about The Dutch, they always say the same two things:
“You have to order the oyster sliders!”
“Get the pie!”
Okay…So it looks like I’m having oyster sliders and pie for dinner.
The Dutch’s famous “little oyster sandwiches”: They may only be about a bite and a half a piece but they’re as good as people make them out to be. Why? The oysters. The oysters in those sliders may be the best fried oysters I’ve ever had. EVER. Not exaggerating. They’re enormously plump and juicy and only lightly breaded so you get that briny oyster flavor in each bite. I’m not as overly enthusiastic about the sandwich as a whole – I want to say there was something about the bun that was a little iffy for me – but those oysters…they just kill it.
Oyster sliders and pie does not equal a complete meal (however much I wish they would). Therefore, I would suggest ordering one of the pasta dishes as an entree to fill the void. They come in relatively large portions for a reasonable price and the menu includes enough variety that you can satisfy any craving, whether it be one for something vegetal and fresh (like the orecchiette with ramps, spring peas and pecorino) or something full of seafood (like the black fettuccine, octopus, rock shrimp and calabrian chili).
Lastly, the mad raves about The Dutch’s pie are warranted; their pie is pretty damn good. The banana cream pie was almost perfect, with its fluffy pudding, chunks of bananas and a gingersnap crust. However, is it wrong that I liked the tart blood orange sorbet more so than the pie itself? (If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.) Either way, a slice of pie and a cup of coffee will end your meal on a golden note.