First Taste: Exclusives at The Oinkster in Hollywood, Open Today

Pork Adobo Burger with garlic aioli & Onion Rings

The long-awaited Hollywood location of Andre Guerrero’s The Oinkster has finally opened. On the east side of Vine, sitting north of Melrose Avenue, the new 3,000-square foot space seats more than 100 people in its open design concept by Design, Bitches and includes two-tops all the way to communal seating – as well as an open air, dog-friendly patio with heat lamps.

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The Great White Truffle Round-up of Los Angeles

White Truffles at SAAM, The Bazaar

It’s that wonderful time of year when it’s time to indulge in one of the true delicacies of the world. Forget the artificial truffle oil (redundant) of the ’90s – the real thing has a season and the time to enjoy white truffles is now.

Of course, at two to three thousand dollars per pound, it’s quite easy to break the bank while partaking. Fortunately, I’ve got a lot of options in different forms (cocktails! tasting menus! burgers!) and price points that will ensure you’re able to get your fungi fix.

Let’s start out with a cocktail by Matty B, why don’t we?

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Lakers, Clippers and Kings Pre-gaming and Viewing at The Mixing Room, J.W. Marriott at L.A. LIVE

Burgers & Beers Deal ($18)

With hockey and basketball seasons upon us, you’ll want to go somewhere to pre-game a live match or simply watch the game on the big screen. Fortunately, the posh space in the lobby level of L.A. Live‘s J.W. Marriott known as The Mixing Room is offering up a few deals whenever an L.A. home team is in the rink or on the court.

In a sort of home team-spirited happy hour for those attending the game (and not), they’re offering a Street Food series, with one $8 featured menu item to run one to two hours before each home game. During this time, you can also get a 16-oz beer for $8, a flight of three beers for $12 and a street food item plus 16-oz beer combo for $15. For an idea of what street food item they’re serving when, peep this schedule. Think Korean Style Tacos, Cuban Sandwiches and Salvadorian Pupusas. Yes, folks, street food is now at a hotel.

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The Fat Cow Soft Opening: You’ve Never Had Mall Food This Good

Fat Cow Interior

The 10-year-old Grove was built to be the Anti-Mall. Everything, from the height of each streetlight down to the exact height of the curb is so calculated so as to appear as if it were…not. It’s a collection of stores within the same structure, but meticulously manufactured to evoke a stroll down the street – with fake snow in the “winter,” to boot. But that is the masterpiece that is The Grove, and its success at that intangibly cozy feel doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon.

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The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich & More at J. Nichols

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

As far as Los Angeles neighborhoods go, Marina del Rey isn’t exactly known as a culinary hotbed. So imagine my surprise when I found quite a few well-conceived menu items at J. Nichols, a recently revamped strip mall eatery.

Black Pepper Wings

My favorite of the meal was the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich – an item that you’ll find under the “sandwich,” not “burger,” column. How many times have I had a pulled pork sandwich where the bun sopped up all the sauce before essentially becoming a shell of itself, having lost its integrity? We all know and even love what a mess any handheld pulled pork item can be, but what if the “mess” part was contained somewhat by a firm, but tasty, pretzel bun? What’s more – the lightly fried, even delicate onion rings also help absorb the sauce, giving the pulled pork sandwich more structure and even crunch than anything this saucy and tasty ever afforded, before.

The Black Pepper Wings were another stand-out, an atypical nod of the Asian (Fusion) Persuasion. Think Black Pepper Beef, but with chicken, instead – and in a manner best enjoyed while your eyes are set on the sports screen. Tasty wings, they are, and there’s no better sauce from which to lick from your lips and fingers.

Of course, there are the menu essentials such as the beet salad and Brussels sprouts, both of which are done as well as anywhere. But my favorite pasta was the Creamy Chipotle Rigatoni, which was done al dente and finished off with that perfect kick. Corn and cherry tomatoes give the dish a nice, sweet touch while the mushrooms sustain its earthy notes.

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Plan Check: The International Stüssy Burger and Other Limited Edition Items

ISB: International Stussy Burger

Since I’m a Hollywood resident, I admit I’ve been sorely behind on the West LA food scene – and Plan Check has been one of the casualties. Recently, I had a good reason to venture west of the 405 and really see what the fuss about the burgers were about.

World Fries

Stüssy, the former surf-centric brand that you can now find as a Target clothing staple, has events to promote its brand – though shall we say they read more like pretty rad one-off parties held at varying venues. Plan Check was the site of one such event a couple weeks ago, whereby I tried “The ISB.” Made with Akaushi beef, jalapeno escabeche, cheese, smokey bacon, battered onion straws, “knowledge” sauce & crunch bun. I know bacon is a shoe-in ingredient, but this was one of the best bacon burgers I’ve tried in recent memory. The lush bun was of no detail!

It was a delicious burger reminiscent of Umami thanks to the fried onion, and ultimately alumni chef Ernesto Uchimura, but I could tell at Plan Check that their burger product is that much more reliable – barring a guerilla expansion plan to flood Los Angeles, that is.

Stoopid Fresh Donuts

Another other must-try limited edition item is the World Fries, which comes topped with chorizo gravy, fried egg and roasted pasila chile. These were done way before the burgers came – because if you love eggs, chorizo and chiles, there’s just no saying “no” to these fries.

Ever had cereal milk soft serve at Momofuku? The Stoopid Fresh Donuts are the real-life incarnation of the mere flavor, made with cooked cruller, raisin frosting, cereal milk ice cream and carmelized cornflakes. The cornflakes were a nice touch to the dessert thanks to the sweet crunchiness. So don’t forget your Stüssy-fied dessert.

With these limited edition items pretty much hitting it out of the park, I can’t wait to try Plan Check’s regular menu – complete with cocktails by Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix.

West LA, I’ll see you soon again.

Check below for that special menu, available now:

The Stussy Menu

All food and drink were hosted.

Sun – Wed

11:30 AM – 11 PM


11:30 AM – 12 AM

Fri – Sat

11:30 AM – 1 AM

Plan Check
1800 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Tuesday Comme Ça Burger Nights Start Tomorrow

Comme Ça Burger

With the popularity of burgers in this city still going strong, Comme Ça’s David Myers has decided to capitalize on his burger’s longtime reputation as being one of the best burgers in LA (or more specifically, The Best Brasserie Burger in LA). Tomorrow, the Melrose Avenue restaurant will start a Tuesday Burger Night weekly and expand their bun and patty combos beyond the classic.

Check below for your gourmet burger options:

  • Comme Ca Burger – $18
  • Swiss Melt Burger – $18
    Angus beef, gruyere cheese, mushrooms, butter lettuce, crispy onion rings, French fries, garlic aioli
  • Black and Blue Burger – $18
    Angus beef, bleu cheese, red onion, bacon, French fries, garlic aioli
  • Lamb Merguez Burger – $16
    Lamb sausage, roasted peppers and caramelized onions, arugula on ciabatta bun, French fries, harissa aioli
  • Breakfast Burger – $14
    House made pork sausage, egg sunny side up, white gravy, on an English muffin, lyonnaise potato
  • CCVB – $14 (Comme Ca Veggie Burger)
    Cashew & pine nuts, garbanzo bean, ajuwan-tomato jam on a tofu bun, baby kale and spinach salad

And since these burgers call for a better pairing than a fountain coke, Comme Ça will be offering a list of “Cellar Finds,” or rare wines, at special values to wash your special burger down.

You know where to be tomorrow night (or the Tuesday night after that, and after that). Not a bad place to go after a couple cocktails at The Roger Room (you’ll want to get to The Room earlier than later)!

Dinner: 5:30 PM – 11 PM

Comme Ça
8479 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069

What’s Cooking at The Taste This Weekend?

Michael Voltaggio & Co. Cooking Demo at The Taste of Beverly Hills, 2010

Hello, Labor Day Weekend!

So many events, so little time. So many events within events, as well. Such as with The Taste, which has been revamped since last year’s The Taste of Beverly Hills 3-day event ran concurrent with L.A. Times’ own cooking, food truck and tasting debut.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, as they say. And so the 4-day, 3-location extravaganza, a collaboration between L.A. Times and Food & Wine, begins today. Through Monday, nine 3- and 4-hour events will span The Beverly Hills Hilton, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood’s Paramount Studios and a block of Downtown Los Angeles.

So, which The Taste sessions will I be attending? If I weren’t hampered by a LudoBites 7.0 reservation tonight and FYF Fest (to see friends OFF! and others) tomorrow, I would pick these:

Burgers & Beer (Tonight/Friday, 7 – 10 PM)

With quality restaurant participants like Rustic Canyon, Blue Palms Brewhouse, Osteria La Buca, The Spice Table, City Tavern, The Gorbals and Westside Tavern – it’s a lineup that easily coaxes me out of my burger-hype-averse funk. With The Beer Chicks curating the beer list at this event, it’s a definite shoe-in. Check the full participant list, which also includes breweries.

Secrets From The Kitchen & Cellar (Saturday, 11 AM – 3 PM)

This is the session with intriguing demos, sure-to-be entertaining panels and top-notch restaurants all bundled in one. Get the inside take on Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre’s LudoBites operation and the first season of Ludo Bites America. Listen to Jonathan Gold, Michael Voltaggio, Craig Thornton (Wolvesmouth) and Walter Manzke talk about the industry in the age of tweeting. Learn insider tips on farmers’ markets from Russ Parsons. The cooking demos by Celestino Drago and Scarpetta’s Scott Conant are sure to be educational and interesting.

…And, while you’re at it, sneak some bites and sips in from my personal favorites of the session: Black Market, Ray’s and Stark Bar, Chaya, Craft, Cafe del Rey, Locanda del Lago, Osteria La Buca, Scarpetta, Sotto and Wood & Vine.

Taco Tryst (Saturday, 7 – 10 PM)

Need I say more? Nouveau and O.G. tacos collide, here. Yes, the Kogi King, Roy Choi, will be host on this night. But the real tastes I’d look forward to are brought to you by Antojitos Carmen, Guelaguetza, Loteria Grill, Mariscos Chentes and Yamashiro.

Street Eats (Sunday, 4 – 8 PM)

The panel led by Betty Hallock will be the main event for this session as she leads Roy Choi, Sang Yoon (Father’s Office, Lukshon), Jet Tila (Wazuzu) and Mario Alberto (Chimu) through a discussion about Los Angeles as a (the best) food city.

While you’re there, don’t miss bites from Akasha, Cast Iron Gourmet, Coolhaus, Jitlada, Osteria La Buca, Pitfire, STREET, The Foundry on Melrose and The Grilled Cheese Truck.

Desserts After Dark (Sunday, 8 – 11 PM)

This is pretty self-explanatory, and though it may be after dark, I’m thinking that dessert on Sunday may also be my dinner. Look for sweet treats from the brand-new Fonuts by Waylynn Lucas, Craft, Farmshop, Oliverio, Pazzo Gelato, Simplethings and Sweet Rose Creamery.


I wish I had time to list all the wines and spirits that are also participating, but you’ll have to see the individual event pages for those. Don’t forget the 40% off code (WEB) when you buy your tickets. The all-inclusive price of $125 and $150 gets knocked down to $75 and $90.

Have fun this weekend, whatever you do. Enjoy the long one, and see you on the flipside.

The Taste: Friday – Monday, September 2 – 5, 2011


40% off code: WEB

9900 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Rodeo Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Paramount Pictures
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

Broadway Blvd.
Between 8th and 9th
Los Angeles, CA

Taiwanese Burgers at Bun Bun Tea House, Arcadia

Black Pepper Rice Bun Burger

Perhaps the Taiwanese burger is so-named more because of Bun Bun Tea House’s location in Arcadia than as a result of its origin. Modeled after MOS Burger, which is popular in Taiwan but originated in Japan (and is now the second-largest fast-food franchise in Japan after McDonald’s), the burgers at this Arcadian tea house are a delight.

Spicy Chicken Rice Bun Burger

It’s no matter that no one else in California even does these burgers – or maybe it is. They’ve got the monopoly on Taiwanese burgers but the ones I’ve tried at Bun Bun are solid. I really enjoyed the crispy textures of the rice bun and the “patties” were chock full of flavor. There is no ketchup and mustard in this burger (though they are available if for some reason you should want them); instead, you’ll find your burger seasoned with either their house aioli or with its burger-specific glaze.

You can get a regular fresh-baked-daily bun at Bun Bun, but the rice buns are rationale for my trek out to Arcadia. My personal favorite was the combination of the crispy rice bun with black pepper steak. And maybe it should be disclosed, here, that I have a love-hate relationship with black pepper steak: It was the best prepared dish at the lone authentic-ish Chinese restaurant in Milwaukee my parents and I frequented during my childhood (we had to order it every time). Without implying that it’s a difficult thing to prepare, this black pepper steak certainly topped that. The beef was tender and not over-peppered. There was just the right amount of sauce – and since I only had a bite of a dining companion’s, I will certainly order this on my next visit.

Bun Bun Storefront

I did enjoy my spicy chicken “patty,” or filling, as well – but there’s just something about the combination of the black pepper beef with rice that sings. Do beware of the American cheese, however, as a topping on the other burgers. I’m not sure what it is about a prevalent fascination with generally low-quality, oily cheese in Asian cuisine, but Bun Bun Burger is not exempt. I’m Asian – but I’m also from Wisconsin.

The fries are of no detail. They’re skinny and they’re delicious. They’ll have you reaching from the table to your mouth with faster frequency than even your $4.50 almond milk tea. Yes, the fries are really that good and yes, your tea (with or without boba) will cost you half as much as your burger-fry combo ($8.50). But that’s okay in Taiwanese burger land, because how would they otherwise make their profit margin what is a sit-down tea house experience without tea?

Also check out this great Q&A of co-owner Calvin Yao by Duke Chao on

Tue – Thu 11:30 AM – 10:30 PM
Fri – Sun 11:30 AM – 11:30 PM

Bun Bun Tea House
651 W Duarte Rd, Ste C
Arcadia, CA 91007

Burgers and Beer In Session at Public School 612

Pub Burger

The people behind The Daily Grill, one of the most recognizable chain restaurants in LA and beyond, have added gastropubs to their repertoire through Public School 612 – the sister and adjacent restaurant to The Daily Grill downtown since last March.

Pub Burger Cross-section

You order at the bar at this new casual hangout, but don’t leave the counter without first choosing your beer. They’ve 20 beers on tap with half of those rotating, and 12 more in bottles and 5 in cans. There’s a decent-sized menu for grub, beer and spirits so there’s pub fare for everyone.

When it comes to burgers, I’ve noticed there’s a complicated relationship between the customer, server and chef when it comes to the “wellness” of one’s burger patty. This became ever apparent since my guest at The Daily Grill was one who prefers “still moo-ing” to my medium rare. Though “pink through and through” is a real preference of his, I’ve known some to order their burgers one grade rarer as a result of chef distrust. Depending on the restaurant, there’s an assumption that the chef will always leave the beef on the grill too long for health code or safety reasons (Islands Burgers and e.coli in early 2000’s).  Then again, maybe the chef knows something about the meat that the customers don’t?


Public School 612 effectively brought out that seared, rare Pub Burger. It had really good flavor while still falling under the Classic Burger column. No toppings (or the variety of such) are used as a crutch, and, as if for emphasis, even the very delicious balsamic onions the Pub Burger comes with are left on the side so you can dress at will. The bun was perfectly buttered, toasted, textured and sized, to boot. It was a great, basic burger.

For those looking for something a little bit removed from basic, try the Colorado Lamb Burger. Yes, it also comes with brie and tomato cranberry jam – but you’d have to try it to believe just how well all these things work together. The lamb burger is served in the same stellar bun, and even a lamb-shy diner might change his mind after one bite.


I chose a pint of refreshing, summer-perfect Craftsman Triple White sage to wash bites of these burgers down. Be sure to visit Public School often to taste their rotating taps since they have a decent selection thanks to Hallie Beaune, one of two Beer Chicks. Also, the fries are fresh-cut and probably won’t disappoint. On my visit, though they were tasty, they turned out a tad golden – with the latter being an observation the GM made when he came over to the table. An aberration, he said.

If you’re not feeling the beer, they’ve also a couple cocktails but really, all the brown spirits you need to enjoy with or after your burger. The atmosphere is conducive, as well, with dim lighting, communal high tables but also an attractive and pleasant bar to sit at or order from – whichever you choose. I had a great time playing darts (free with your driver’s license on deposit) – and since the place is new the darts and board are still in great shape. All the better to lose three games of Cricket with, my dear.

Menu & Beer

It’s not as if Downtown L.A.’s Financial District was in lack of places to hang out, but it seems like Public School 612 provides not just the drinks and vibe, but also great food and games. In a time of my life where I’ve most shunned malls and chains, it’s ironic to see that perhaps Public School’s strength is derived from being an offshoot of a major chain (you can find The Daily Grill in Washington D.C. and Illinois as well).

Bottom line? The burgers, beer and spirits selection are solid and if you bring great company, there’s no reason why you won’t have a great time. Educate yourselves, Downtown Los Angeles.

P.S. – Though you can’t get a burger at a discounted price, check out their happy hour, anyway (M-F, 4-7 PM). Nothing is over $4 and they have $5 Margaritas and $10 carafes of wine. They also have a $4 tap handle available all night, so check out what that is.

All food and drink were hosted.

Open 4 PM Daily

Happy Hour: M – F, 4 – 7 PM

Public School 612
612 Flower Street, #220
Los Angeles, CA 90017