I just got home from my first trip to LA. Had lots of yummy, delicious food thanks to Chowhound, and wanted to share some of my thoughts.
First, I was really impressed in general with the quality of the food in LA. The only disappointment I had was not finding any remarkable Mexican food! This'll have to be rectified on my next visit.
Anyway! Where I went, and what I thought:
California Fish Grill
I think this place's general popularity on Yelp is terrifying and indicative of the low standards for food in Orange County.
Maybe it was just the one person working here, but the place was obnoxious. Upon attempting to order chicken, the woman taking our orders informed us that the chicken was so popular that they only bought enough chicken for half a day. Does that make sense to you? It does not to me.
The sassy waitress also told me that the fish tacos were deep fried. I've never seen deep fried fish tacos before, but to each their own. After a number of traumas, I settled on the salmon tacos.
The tacos arrived covered in the oh-so-authentically-Mexican tartar sauce. Yum! (Blech!) Apart from aforementioned sauce, they were utterly flavorless. The fish tasted like it had been dead and frozen for a year.
I don't know quite how to review this place. For French food in a small stall in a farmers market, the food is pretty impressive. For French food in general, this place is pretty terrible. Hence the three stairs: it is somewhere in the middle.
During an absolutely, bitterly frigid evening, a group of friends and I came here for dinner. Wanting something warm and substantial, I had the coq au vin. After a long while, and lots of indifferent service, it arrived. The portion was absolutely massive; the side of gratin itself was nearly the same size as a full dinner plate.
Unfortunately, the coq tasted like rubber. Apart from the sauce, the dish was absolutely flavorless. It was incredibly boring. The only flavor came from the heavy cream used in making the gratin.
And so I left Monsieur Marcel, bitterly cold, full but not satisfied, and miserable. Blech.
This place was quite all right. Not stellar, not spectacular, but all right. It was a more refined and expensive version of standard American "Mexican" food, gussied up with fancy sauces and high price tags.
First, the drinks. While shockingly expensive ($12 for a margarita), my cucumber margarita was delicious and interesting. The smoothness of the cucumber was an interesting contrast to the heat of the tequila.
On the other hand, the food was ... mediocre. I had the vegetarian portobello mushroom dish, which was extremely heavy since it was literally smothered in black beans. I couldn't finish it.
And the service was awkward and hostile with its friendliness. Our waitress was awkwardly smiley and informal, which did not match the $20-30 per entrée price tag. It was an immediate turn off, since I never feel comfortable when wait staff pretends to be overly friendly and smiley.
While I enjoyed the food, I wouldn't go back.
Tan Hoang Huong Sandwiches & Coffee
The best Vietnamese sandwich I had in Orange County. The place is a little strange -- its located in a run down supermarket with a few homeless people hanging out inside. But once you step inside, there were about 20 - 30 Vietnamese people ordering in front of me, which attested to its popularity. I ordered the chicken banh mi.
The bread was softer and more doughy than Top Baguette's, but it felt more substantial. They also were generous with the chilis, which gave the chicken sandwiches a delicious kick.
I tried the chicken sandwich both with and without egg: I strongly recommend the version with the egg. It had way more flavor, and was more substantial.
Oh, and it was RIDICULOUSLY cheap. It was $11 for three people with drinks!
Great Vietnamese sandwiches. I had the chicken without egg, which was delicious. The baguette was chewy and felt substantial.
My only complaint is that the chicken could have been more substantial, and it would seem that the staff skipped the jalapeños for the white guy. There was no heat at all in the sandwich.
Soowon Galbi Korean BBQ
Soowon Galbi is a great introduction to Korea Town. After searching extensively online for the one place to try on my visit to LA for KBBQ, I settled on Soowon because the general consensus was that it was the best around. Since I haven't tried other places in LA, I can't compare, but I can say it hands down knocks the socks off of any place in San Francisco.
Unlike LA, Korean BBQ in San Francisco is obscure and sad. Every place I've tried in San Francisco is expensive, tastes stale, and is incredibly busy. Oh, and the service is slow, indifferent, and generally hostile to boot.
Soowon Galbi is the mirrior image. We stopped here for lunch, and were immediately seated at an immaculately clean table by a friendly host. The menu was extensive, but we both ordered the chicken, which came out quickly and in the most delicious, tangy ginger marinade. To make things even better, the staff volunteered to cook the food for us.
Soowon's attention to details was also evident in the side dishes, which were amazing appetizers while the chicken cooked in front of us. Their kim chi is to die for. The staff even cut the chicken into small pieces before serving it, making it easier to eat.
Everything at this place is first rate. The next time I'm back in LA, I will definitely stop here!
1445 4th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tan Hoang Huong
3132 E Chapman Ave, Orange, CA 92869
9618 W Pico Blvd Ste 508, Los Angeles, CA 90035