As my time in LA is counting down and I am packing my bags yet again, I have decided to move down the list of must try. I decided to place an emphasis on asian cuisine as I will definitely miss this part of LA the most. So for the past two weeks, I have been eatting common asian food non-stop. Here is what I can vaguely remember from the different places I have tried.
Japanese Ramen War- I went back to sample the strip on sawtelle. Asahi ramen was still my least favorite. The miso broth came out just average. My main issue is that their broth does not have enough depth. However, their noodle texture was better than I remembered. Kinchan's Chashu ramen's broth was just as I remembered - salty. A little too strong for my liking. Chashu was good and noodle texture consistent. Ramen-ya still had huge slices of Chashu for their Chashu Ramen. The pork was very tender and noodle texture was firm. Their broth was on the lighter side than what I remembered. Definitely not as strong as Kinchan's but not as light as Asahi. Common theme here is that all three shop lacked good broth to accompany the noodles and ingredients. Next stop was Daikokuya. Their noodles are probably one of my favorites around. Nice and firm. The timer they have works wonders as does the salt rub before boiling. Their Chashu was excellent and their boiled egg was as great as ever. The broth, with kotteri, is wins hands down in comparison to the other three that I mentioned before. When I thought I can clearly declare a favorite, I decided to pay a visit to Shinsengumi Hakata Ramen. Their pork flavored broth and ramen is customizable to your liking (I ordered firm textured, thick, and steaming hot... just the way I believe good ramen is). This broth is really to die for. Thick, creamy and flavorful, the broth makes wonder for the combination of ginger, scallions and noodles. Their chashu was probably their weakest point but I can now see why people rank Shinsengumi over Daikokuya. For me, its a harder comparison. Broth winner is defintely Shinsengumi, but Daikokuya does their chashu so much better. Clearly, I cannot make up my mind on this one.
Thaitown showdown - I made my rounds at Thaitown, trying to recall what Thi N. once wrote about specialties in each restaurant. Unfortunately, I had to cut my sampling short to Sanamlung and Palms. I had the braised duck soup noodles at Sanamlung. I must say, the broth and duck is done really well. After a series of ramen ventures, my tongue has now been shocked by the earthy but light, salty but not overpowering broth. The pickled cabbage and the flat noodles was not worthy as well. Not over cooked one bit were the noodles. (I like my noodles firm thank you). Having had too much soup and noodling, I decided to visit Palms for their Issan sausage and wild boar. I was actually not very impressed by the boar. From the many times I have eatten boar (twice) I actually thought the texture of the boar that came to me was a little bit too chewy. Maybe it was due to overcooking but I am unsure. However, the Issan sausage was a hit. I'd take that appetizer at any thai restaurant any day. Very appetizing as it had a sour kick to the sausages.
After a few days straight of heavy noodling and thai food my stomach felt uneasy and I decided to give it a rest. So I have decided on something light and subtle.
New vs Old - This was exactly how I felt when I compared Soba between Taiko and Otafuku. Otafuku being a traditional soba place and Taiko being more of a newer style soba place. I tried the soba with tempura at both places to get across the difference. Honestly, the texture at Otafuku cannot be beat. Fresh, chewy, and very very subtle, the taste requires a fine tune in the finest of taste buds. Even eatting back to back at Taiko and Otafuku, I cannot explain the ever so slight difference that makes Otafuku's handmade soba that much better. Maybe it is the moisture of the soba having been freshly made. Maybe it is the texture, chewiness, firmness, and yes mildness that adds another dimension to the noodles. Not that Taiko's soba was any slouch by any means. (I do however dislike the rice crispy things they sprinkle over soba so I always ask them to leave it out). But something about Otafuku's handmade soba just leaves you thinking, if I can eat this everyday, I'd be a very healthy person (minus the tempura of course). Since I brought it up, I might as well compare the tempura at the two places. I am a bit hesitant to say this but tempura at Taiko to me is a little better but not because of quality or taste. It is all due to my own timing. I love tempura that just came out of the fryer. But I was slowly slurping away at my soba at Otafuku that the tempura got *gasp* cold. Bad bad move on my part.
For a little bit of redemption, I decide to bring some heat and go for Szechaun. I was debating between Best Szechaun and the recent Yungui Garden reviews by Low End Theory and AndrewS reported on recently. Being the minimalist, I decided to pick the parking lot which had parking space available and sure enough, I had an easier time finding parking at YunGui. Since I was a solo dinner, I did not have the luxury of ordering a boat load. I did however decided on mabo tofu and water boiled fish. Rice was definitely needed. Water boiled fish was very very flavourful. Fish fillets floating with sliced cabbage in a bowl of red chili oil. Almost looks intimidating to touch, that is until the mabo tofu showed up. There is just something special about real mabo tofu. Silky white cubes of tofu drenched with chili/black beans all in a pot mixed with ground pork. Maybe it was a bit of a maschistic pleasure, but I enjoyed the lips and tongue numbing sensation from the oh so famous peppercorns. I went back for more and more mabo tofu till I finished my own order of rice! When things got too hot, I actually used the water boiled fish to "relieve" the hotness. I actually enjoyed the water boiled fish a lot. Very good value as well. The chili oil drenched fish pieces breaks apart in your mouth sending an intense chili spicy flavor but also a gentle fish delicate flavor.
Ok, I can see this being too long so I will end my adventures here. I still have yet to post my experience at Mei Long and Shiang Garden. Maybe I will add a few more places to go to this week and post again when the week ends and thanks to anyone who have made it this far down in the post. It is probably a lot tougher reading this than typing it out.