Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun Beats the Heat


This weekend’s derecho wreaked havoc on DC, leaving thousands of people without power amidst a sweltering heat wave.  I am fortunately not one of those people, but am still melting in this oppressive heat.  While contemplating ways to beat the heat, I remembered an ice-cold bowl of naeng myun that I had at Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun in Los Angeles, the thought of which is instantly cooling me off.

Naeng myun is a Korean cold noodle dish, which actually originated in the mountains of North Korea.  Chewy buckwheat noodles are served in chilled beef broth, with shards of shaved ice still floating in the bowl.  Sitting atop the noodles is usually a perfectly hard boiled egg, julienned cucumbers, slices of lean pork, pickled radishes, and a dollop of punchy gochuchang (Korean fermented red bean paste).  Everything about the dish–right down to the silver metal bowl that it’s served in–is cool and refreshing.

I ate naeng myun a lot when I visited Seoul last summer, but had yet to find an adequate replication of the dish in the States.  That is, until I visited Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun in LA’s Koreatown, where virtually every customer in the restaurant was slurping a bowl of naeng myun.  Submerged in an ice bath of savory beef broth, the noodles were long and elastic, with a slightly nutty taste.  The gochuchang, and perhaps the addition of rice vinegar, added a refreshing tang and depth that cut through the savoriness of the broth.  Even 20 minutes after my bowl had arrived, as I continued to eat my way through the dish, the shaved ice in the broth remained in tact, showing no signs of melting anytime soon.  It’s a hearty yet refreshing dish, that gives you the strength and sustenance to withstand a hot summer day.

I’m not sure where to get the best naeng myun in the DC region (perhaps readers can point me in the right direction?).  But until I find out, I’ll be fantasizing about Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun, in hopes of alleviating this sweltering heat wave.

Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun
3185 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 382-3815
Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun on Urbanspoon

P.S. If you’re still in doubt about Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun even after my glowing review, go see Jonathan Gold and Anthony Bourdain wax poetic about the place here and here.

Eating on the Eastside: Not Just for Hipsters

The Unpaid Gourmet is (finally) back after a long hiatus, which involved studying for (dreaded) law school exams, moving out of a (grungy) Philadelphia apartment, spending two (glorious) weeks at home in Los Angeles, and settling down for the next month in Washington, DC.  In between all the chaos, I managed to enjoy more than a few noteworthy meals, which I’ll be recounting right here on this blog.

I’ll start with some memorable meals from my trip to Los Angeles.  Growing up in Silver Lake, I’ve seen the neighborhood transform from dull and quiet to happening and hipster.  Before, I couldn’t convince my friends to go east of Larchmont.  Now, my former Westside-centric friends flock not only to Silver Lake, but also as far east as (gasp) Pasadena to visit the latest restaurants and bars.  The Eastside has definitely become a dining destination, for hipsters and old-timers (like me!) alike.  I’ll share some of the new places that I enjoyed most on this trip, along with some oldies that remain just as fantastic as before.

Golden Road Brewery (Glendale)

It’s pretty difficult to find Golden Road Brewery, hidden behind the railroad tracks and industrial warehouses, but well worth the trek.  Locals flock to Golden Road not only for its awesome craft brews, but also for the fresh, local fare served at its gastropub.  The pub is surprisingly big, with a huge patio out front and warehouse-sized dining room inside.  But even more surprisingly, on a Wednesday night when I attended, the entire pub was filled.

I ordered the famous Point the Way IPA ($5), ground pork & bacon meatballs ($7), and coconut “noodle” salad ($9).   The Point the Way IPA was mildly hoppy, and went down smoothly on a warm summer night.  The meatballs, served in a warm tomato-bacon sauce over chili corn bread, were underwhelming.  Though moist and tender, I thought the meatballs lacked in flavor, and the chili corn bread lacked any remnant of chili flavor.

The coconut “noodle” salad, however, more than made up for the underwhelming meatballs.  Thai coconut, julienned vegetables, napa cabbage, and fresh herbs were dressed in an almond chili sauce, and topped with spicy cashews.  The sweetness of the coconut “noodles” balanced the heat of the almond chili sauce beautifully, while the cabbage, julienned carrots and bell peppers added a lovely crunch.  I devoured the entire plate, and believe me, that almost never happens when I order a salad.

Golden Road’s convivial atmosphere, respectable beers, and sophisticated pub fare seems to be a hit with the crowds, as evidenced by the full dining room on Wednesday night.  I’ll definitely be back for happy hour with my friends.

5410 West San Fernando Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
(213) 373-HOPS (4677)
The Pub at Golden Road Brewing on Urbanspoon

 Fiore Market Cafe (South Pasadena)

Fiore Market Cafe is the perfect spot for ladies-who-lunch, with its charming garden and rustic menu.  The cafe itself is tiny, occupying one small room in the back of a community theater.  But what Fiore lacks in indoor space, it more than makes up for with its outdoor seating.  Grab a seat at one of the umbrella-covered picnic tables, amidst the manicured hedges and idyllic vegetable garden, and you’ll forget all about the city traffic outside.

The food mirrors the setting at Fiore: lovely and ladylike.  I ordered the short rib sandwich ($9.25), served on Fiore’s homemade bread.  The bread was light and airy, but substantial enough to soak up the juices from the short ribs.  Pickles and red cabbage slaw gave the sandwich an Asian accent, but the addition of chipotle mayo seemed at odds with the other flavors.

I also ordered a side of the spicy udon salad ($4.25), with pleasantly chewy udon noodles, crisp napa and red cabbage, carrots and scallions in a spicy soy dressing. I would have liked more heat since the salad was billed as spicy, but overall, I enjoyed the dish.  For a lovely and leisurely afternoon lunch, Fiore Market Cafe and its adorable garden can’t be beat.

1000 Fremont Ave.
South Pasadena, CA 91030
(626) 441-2280
Fiore Market Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tomato Pie & Intelligentsia Coffee (Silver Lake)

I, along with GQ food critic Alan Richman and legions of other fans, am absolutely hooked on Tomato Pie, a retro neon-orange jukebox of a pizza joint, located on Hyperion Blvd.  Since it opened a few years back, Tomato Pie has become a neighborhood staple and one of my must-go-to spots whenever I am back home in LA.  Their pizza simply can’t be beat; not only because it’s one of the few authentic NY-style pizzas on the West Coast, but also because of its commitment to fresh ingredients and dedication to the sheer craft of pizza making.

I can’t go to Tomato Pie without devouring ordering a slice of its infamous Grandma Pie.  To the uninitiated, the Grandma seems, well, old and boring; it’s just another Margherita pizza.  But devotees know the Grandma is so much more, and it’s all in the sauce.  Soulful, intense, just-garlicky-enough tomato sauce is topped with a handful of fresh basil and interspersed with mounds of melted mozzarella.

Another favorite of mine is the eggplant parmigiana pie, and it couldn’t be more different than the Grandma.  While the Grandma is an exercise in restraint, the eggplant parmigiana just piles it on, with crispy breaded eggplant, spinach, ricotta, and mushrooms.  It’s rich and satisfying, especially for eggplant lovers.

And if the top-notch toppings aren’t enough to win you over, Tomato Pie’s crust will definitely convert even the staunchest of haters.  Crisp and brown on the outside, chewy with a hint of salt on the inside, it truly is the best crust ever.

If you still have some room left after visiting Tomato Pie, walk a few blocks down to Sunset Junction, the heart of Silver Lake’s hipster revolution.  Now, I’m normally averse to hipster spots, but this one is honestly worth the aversion.  Intelligentsia Coffee (pictured above) is definitely a scene, with its perpetually filled tables (even in the middle of a weekday), minimalist interior, and strict ban on skim milk.  But its stellar single-origin coffees, expertly made espresso, and funky pastries (baked by Cake Monkey) make it easy to get past, and maybe even embrace, the hilarity of it all.

2457 Hyperion Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 661-6474
Tomato Pie Pizza Joint on Urbanspoon

3922 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 663-6173
Intelligentsia Coffee on Urbanspoon

Going Global

Hello, readers! After a hectic 2-month hiatus filled with final exams, I’m thrilled that summer has (finally) begun and that I can devote more time to blogging.  I have lots of updates since my last post, and am happy to be able to share them with all of you.

I’ve been traveling quite a lot since leaving the city of brotherly love.  After enjoying the perfect beach weather in Los Angeles for a couple weeks, I headed up to San Francisco to begin an internship.  From carbonara pizza at Delfina, to New Orleans iced coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee, to awesome chicken mole tamales at the Heart of the City Farmers Market, I can definitely say that San Francisco lived up to its foodie reputation.

Seven thousand miles across the Pacific, my journey continues in the truly amazing city of Hong Kong, where I will be staying for the next six weeks.  I’ve been here for 4 days now and can already say that I am falling in love with this city.  Its kinetic energy, ultra modern skyscrapers, lush parks, and of course,  fabulous food culture, make it worthwhile to brave the heat and humidity and explore the city.

My first meals in Hong Kong were simple and classic.  After wandering through Central District’s many office buildings and shopping malls, I stumbled across Can-teen, a local chain serving modern takes on traditional Hong Kong style dishes.  I ordered char siu over rice (HKD $38), which was excellent.  The char siu pork had just the right amount of fat and meat, making each bite rich and flavorful.

For dinner, I chose Tsim Chai Kee (沾仔記), a noodle shop that was mentioned in both my guidebook and Open Rice (Hong Kong’s version of Yelp).  Tsim Chai Kee has three locations in Hong Kong, two of which are in Central.  I ordered the prawn wonton noodle soup, which was a steal for HKD $19.  The egg noodles were perfectly al dente, while the wontons were savory and soothing.

After these first couple of meals, I could already tell that Hong Kong is a food paradise.  I’ll be sharing the rest of my eating expeditions, along with any adventures that happen along the way, right here for the next 6 weeks.

Restaurant.com Giveaway!

The Unpaid Gourmet is happy to announce its first giveaway–all thanks to Restaurant.com!

For readers unfamiliar with the site, Restaurant.com offers discounts to over 15,000 restaurants across the country. From appetizers to dessert, from wine to dinner, Restaurant.com helps restaurant owners promote the new and unique aspects of their restaurants while providing diners with great value in a fun, new and cost effective way.

Personally, I’ve been perusing the Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Los Angeles sections of the site, and I’m happy to have found some of my favorite places listed on the site.

And now onto the most exciting part–the giveaway!  Two lucky readers will each win a $25 gift certificate to Restaurant.com.  To enter, answer the following question in the comments section below:

What dish or ingredient are you most looking forward to seeing on menus this spring?

(For me, I’ll have to go with asparagus risotto.  Mmmmm.)

The giveaway will close Sunday April 10 at 11 p.m. and winners will be contacted on Monday.  Bonus points to readers who sign up for RSS Feed!  (Well, not really, but please do sign up anyway!)

Good luck, and please thank Restaurant.com for their generosity.

**UPDATE: Congratulations to Susan Audrey and Ariste, winners of the contest! Thank you to everyone who entered.  Hopefully we’ll start seeing strawberries and artichokes on menus soon!

Shameless Plug #5

In my latest column for Zester Daily, I attended the second annual Korean BBQ Cook-Off in Los Angeles and interviewed contestants and judges on Korean food’s sudden rise in popularity. Chef Ludo Lefebvre (of LudoBites fame), Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, and award-winning actress Sandra Oh were on hand to offer their thoughts on the trend and answer this burning question: Is kimchi the new sushi?

Here’s an excerpt:

Diners aren’t the only ones embracing Korean cuisine. Chefs are also hopping on the bandwagon, with Korean ingredients and flavors showing up more and more at high-profile restaurants around L.A., including LudoBites, where Lefebvre frequently uses kimchi in his dishes. “Korean food is a big influence in America,” Lefebvre said. “I am French, and I cook a lot with kimchi at my restaurant. I’ve made kimchi foie gras, kimchi with cheese, and now I’m working on a kimchi dessert.”

Korean chefs are incorporating American influences into their native cuisine as well, perhaps playing off the success of Roy Choi’s Kogi tacos. At the Korean BBQ Cook-Off, visitors waited in line for half an hour to try Kalbi Burger and Seoul Sausage Company, which sold Korean-inspired burgers and hot dogs. But it was Choonchun Dakgalbi’s signature dish of chicken, rice cakes, yams and cheese in a spicy red sauce that won the attention of the judges. Cook-off judge Oh presented the restaurant with the award for best fusion dish. “I love the fact that Korean food, especially in LA, is moving forward,” she said. “I’m totally there with you guys to expand Korean flavors.”

Read the full article at Zester Daily. And please Tweet, Like, and forward to your friends!


LA Edition: Pampas Grill

Spicy chicken, picanha con alho, & side dishes

Every time I am in LA, I make it a point to stop at the Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax. For those who are not familiar with this historic LA landmark, it is not your ordinary farmers market. Since 1934, the Farmers Market has housed some of LA’s most popular eateries, including Du-par’s, Kokomo Cafe, and Loteria. My favorite place in the Farmers Market, however, is Pampas Grill.

Pampas Grill is a small Brazilian churrascaria located in a quiet corner of the Farmers Market. One of my best friends (who is Brazilian) introduced me to Pampas about 6 years ago and I have been a regular ever since. Pampas features a self-serve salad and hot entree bar, so diners can get as much or as little as they want. My favorite dishes include the beet salad, feijoada (black bean stew), and pao de queijo (cheesy bread made fro yuca flour). The beet salad is simply diced beets, but the flavor is incredibly fresh and sweet. The feijoada, a traditional Brazilian dish, is earthy and smoky–delicious over the housemade rice and topped with some yuca powder. Pao de queijo is crisp on the outside, chewy and cheesy on the inside.

The salad bar

While you could easily fill up on the salad bar, make sure to leave room for the main attraction: Brazilian barbecue! Diners can choose which meats they would like, and servers will hand carve them right off the spit. I love the picanha con alho, or garlic beef. The beef is super tender and juicy, with just the right amount of fat. I also tried the spicy chicken, which was actually pretty mild for my taste, but still tasty. Other offerings include chicken wrapped in bacon, sirloin, and sausages.

Pampas determined the price of the meal by weighing your plate. Depending on how much you get, the price can be quite low…or quite high. (The plate pictured above cost $13.75–not too bad for the amount of delicious food!) If you’re looking for a fresh and flavorful taste of Brazil in LA, look no further than Pampas Grill!

Pampas Grill

6333 West 3rd St. #618

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Pampas Grill on Urbanspoon

Merry Christmas to all…

The White House Christmas Tree

Ice skating at the National Gallery

Mushroom crostini

Raspberry tart

Christmas Eve sunset in LA

…And to all a good night.

LA Edition: A Tam Good Christmas

The Tam

Since I arrived home to LA, I’ve been a bit of a Scrooge. Even though I had ample time to prepare for the holidays, they still snuck up on me all of a sudden. Plus, I was sad to miss last weekend’s massive snowstorm! I would have loved to build a snowman or pelt people in the Snowpacalypse Guerilla Snowball Fight on U St. I called my DC friends for updates and watched news reports on the storm longingly from LA, where it was a warm and sunny 70 degrees. Despite being a California native and spending every Christmas in palm tree-laden LA, I felt like I was missing out on a real White Christmas.

I was in dire need of some Christmas spirit and, luckily for me, it came in the form of dinner at the Tam O’ Shanter. Lovingly know by locals as “the Tam,” this LA institution has been serving up prime rib for over 80 years. The Tam is the oldest restaurant in LA to operated by the same family in the same location–which means, the food and the service is deliciously tried and true.

The Tam's festive entryway

Over the holidays, the Tam O’Shanter transforms itself into a bastion of holiday cheer. Fully trimmed Christmas trees and bouquets of poinsettias adorn every room, a roaring fire greets visitors in the front, and (my favorite part) carolers mill through the dining rooms, taking requests for holiday songs from each and every table. (We requested “Feliz Navidad” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” this year!) Needless to say, the Tam is the premiere place for family gatherings over the holidays, so I suggest you get your reservation in early.

The carolers in full holiday regalia!

My family goes to the Tam every year for the holidays with our close friend, and every year, the food and service is excellent. This year was no exception. I ordered the cream of mushroom soup and braised beef short ribs with mashed potatoes and creamed corn.

Braised beef short ribs: tender to the bone

The soup was rich and creamy, with a nice earthiness added by the mushrooms. The short ribs were so tender they fell apart with the slightest touch of my fork, and paired well with the buttery mashed potatoes and sweet creamed corn.

Other dishes of note included the juicy California cut of prime rib (a smaller cut) served with Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, and creamed corn and a lighter Mahi Mahi dish. For dessert, make sure to order one of their signature souffles. The souffle flavors that night were peach and chocolate, and of course, we ordered both. They were simply TO DIE FOR: light as air, full of flavor, served hot with a huge dollop of freshly whipped cream. The souffles take 45 min. to prepare, so make sure to order them ahead of time.   (Sorry no photo is available–the waitress cut and served the souffles before I had time to take one! But trust me: it was heavenly.)

I left the Tam full of red meat and Christmas cheer. Though prices at the Tam are not the cheapest (entrees cost between $18-30), I think the splurge is definitely worth it. The ingredients are high quality, service is top notch, and plus, how can you resist being serenaded tableside by carolers?! For a festive holiday experience that is as close to a white Christmas as LA can get, hurry over to the Tam O’Shanter before the end of the holiday season!

The Tam's infamous prime rib

The Tam O’Shanter Inn

2980 Los Feliz Boulevard (across from Best Buy/Costco)
Los Angeles, California 90039
(323) 664-0228

Tam O'Shanter Inn on Urbanspoon