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Restaurants & Bars 7

Pan Asia---Three quick takes

Eric Archer | Dec 5, 200403:45 PM

A quick blow-by blow on three recent meals, all at places that have seemingly not been mentioned on the board for awhile.

ODAESAN---Korean style sushi

After an LA times write-up and a couple of subsequent Hound reviews over six months ago, decided to give the place a try. Nice joint, with private rooms upstairs, even for parties of 2.

GF and I were starved, so dived right into the banchan (panchan?), one of my favorite aspects of eating Korean food. As soon as one bowl of radish kimchi is dusted off, it's repaced by something different. When we finally get the small plate of tiny dried fish, GF leaps for joy.

Started off with two orders of uni sushi. Gigantic portions. Delicious.

Next was the oft-mentioned "al bap", a large bowl of rice topped with uni and a colorful assortment of different roe (salmon, flying fish, something green, something black). Some sea greens mixed in, all vigorously mixed together. Creamy-salty, every bite a different flavor balance, absolutely out of this world.

Lobster sashimi followed. Tail is thinly fileted. All the tomalley is scraped up and formed into two long tubes on the platter. Soy-wasabi or Korean chili sauce for dipping. Good, but not earth-shattering.

Lobster head is then used to make soondubu, a spicy, vibrantly orange tofu stew, for final, gut-busting course. Though GF and I are stuffed to the gills at this point ("Wafer thin mint?"), the soondubu, with large chunks of tender lobster bobbing teasingly at the surface, is irresistable.

All this, plus two large bottles of Hite, a bottle of soju, for about $!50. Warm, terrific service. The "al bap" alone is worth a trip across town.

YABU---La Cienega, Japanese izakaya (tapas)

First trip here, although have visited the Pico location a few times. Good drinking food.

Nicely tucked into a corner table in the back patio, GF and I dive into assorted small plates of seaweed salad, tako sunomono (octopus in vinegar), grilled asparagus wrapped in salmon, tsukune (chicken meatballs), shrimp shu-mai, and, perhaps the winner of the evening, beef tataki. Last dish consists of thinly sliced seared beef, served in a pool of ponzu sauce, flecked with a mystery element giving the dish a little kick. Add to this a tall bottle of Ken sake and a couple of Sapporo's, and slightly flushed GF and I are doing quite nicely, thank you.

After the small plates, a little nabeyaki udon, to counter the effects of the chilly evening. Plentiful seafood, flavorful salty-sweet broth, firm, pleasantly chewy noodles. Negligible, weird, Earl Grey and Green Tea creme brulees for dessert.

At $100 a head, not cheap. Very pleasant and informative waitress. Nice place to gather with friends, and the wide variety of offerings can suit a swath of palates. La Cienega branch a lot more "scene-y" than I remember the Pico branch being.

SEA EMPRESS---South Bay Chinese

A favorite of my folks, who live behind the Orange Curtain. A good halfway point to meet their son and GF, who live in Silverlake. I generally head to SGV for my Chinese food fix. I am definitely no expert, but I was pleasantly surprised by this place.

Jellyfish and chicken to start. The former cut into thick, udon-size strips. Heavily sluiced in sesame oil. With a little chili sauce on the side, delish.

After a leisurely first five minutes post-ordering, food comes out of kitchen like a hail of bullets. First, whole Peking Duck (for a ridiculous 12 bucks). Crispy, slightly sweet skin chunks served with rice puffs. Separately, velvety soft and greasy-juicy slabs of duck to be wrapped in bau-like dough, dipped in plum sauce. Mouths full, grease dripping from our finger tips, the four of us exchange looks of carniverous triumph.

Simultaneously, sichuan-style scallops (again, delicious) and bok choy with black mushrooms. Arriving just barely after the others, a clay hot pot full of crab claws, legs, and house-made rice vermicelli. Despite yet again approaching the intake threshold, scraping the intensely flavored, unctious goo of crab-vermicelli off the bottom of the pot was perhaps the highlight of the meal.

All this food, two Tsingtaos, and a large vat of steamed rice for $80. Department store food at swap meet prices.

On Olympic, near Kenmore, North side of street
(can't find address on web)

North La Cienega Blvd West Hollywood
Phone: 310 854 0400.

1636 W Redondo Beach Blvd, Gardena
(310) 538-6868

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