It was a thankfully mild Sunday in Chinatown, and Grand Central Plaza was filled with red tents under which chefs, cooks, brewers, bartenders and vendors doled out Sriracha-themed exclusives to enthusiasts of the celebrated, local Rooster sauce. Whether the food and drink were evocative of or complementary to the red jalapeno chili sauce, there was no shortage of flavor to be found on that block between Broadway and Hill.
If the former Playa Rivera, as it stood on Beverly Boulevard, offered a somewhat intimidating Mexi-China concept for the price point at which it met its clientele, then perhaps Petty Cash Taqueria will benefit from all the lessons learnt. The menu is streamlined straight toward Baja, peppered with a beverage selection fit to satisfy the fussiest drinkers in LA. While quality ingredients are in the picture, that doesn’t begin to describe how well the tacos and flavor combinations are executed.
After all, who else would show the people of Hancock Park that a charred octopus taco is always what they’ve wanted?
The food festival circuit is a doozy, these days. And with how exhausting each event is, it’s easy to fatigue early on. There’s dealing with the line wait in front of the popular stands, but there’s also the prioritizing that goes on to ensure you’re getting the good stuff before you get full. The sold-out Tacolandia stood to be no different.
Now that it’s summer in Los Angeles, there’s a ton going on all over town. And when it comes to food events, it’s enough to make your head spin. But you want to play it smart with your time and funds, because no one’s got patience for fluff.
Fortunately, I’ve narrowed it down to the best four events you’ll want to attend this month. They’re all on the weekend, so you’ll have enough time to make your trek. Whether it’s raising money to combat childhood hunger, celebrating Fatherhood the best way possible, eating the best tacos in the city or carousing the famous Rose Bowl for the best bites in Los Angeles, June is shaping up to be an exciting time to be in L.A. Let’s get started. Continue reading
It was a late night in San Felipe when we decided to make probably our 10th stop of the day at El Filete. We ordered lips, tripe and carne asada as we were all eager to see what kind of tacos we had in store. Women’s boxing played on the overhead TVs in the heavily flourescent-lit shop, and I admit that I got really into it – including the surprising, Pacquiao-esque, end decision.
Bill had been on a mission for lips (labio) tacos and was excited El Filete had them. I, though eager to prove that I had no prejudgments when it comes to parts of the animal, preferred the carne asada ones by far. The tripe indeed was flavorful, but I loved how the carne asada really caught the flavor of the mesquite grill. It was also testament to the fact that not all carne asada is the same.
Far from it. It was probably the most complex flavored carne I had had ever, and when I saw the grill, I could see why: The flame grill glowed with mesquite peeping out at the bottom. It was like I had never actually eaten real carne asada before; I found it almost preposterous how much better these tasted than anything I’ve had in LA when carne, in general, is so common. I guess that’s another way of describing something as “plain.”
Call it the re-education of carne asada. Mesquite is where it’s at. I’ve really no other advice other than to get down to Mexico to see what it’s really supposed to taste like…
11 AM – 12 am
Asadero El Filete
Baja California, Mexico
There in our van, with exterior temperatures having hovered around 90 to 100 degrees for the 5th and final day, were Bill and his wife Ariana, Barbara, Fiona and I being driven by the tireless, hospitable Ruben. We were heading home from San Felipe on our drive through Baja California, concluding with a jaunt through Mexicali – the Chinese food capital of Mexico – and to Tecate. Then, back to Tijuana.
Almost home, but not quite.
Time for a taco.
In between Mexicali and Tecate lies La Rumorosa (in 2001 NYT article), an area named for the sounds made when winds blow through the canyons. You’ll miss it if you blink, but Tacos Lalo is every reason to keep those eyes wide, even if you find yourself there in the blisteringly hot desert in June.
Steamed tacos? I had never heard of Tacos al Vapor. But there they were – surprisingly flavorful and lucious fillings cradled by two damp tortillas. Yes, the damp tortilla thing was new to me, too. But how often have I been non-plussed by a cold, tough (synonymous with store-bought) tortilla? Countless times. Tacos Lalo tortillas just blended in seamlessly with the braised meat. Wet, but also flavorful. There was also just enough potato to fill out my taco without being filler.
If you visit, you’ll definitely want to add your share of salsas (I was negligent with my own taco, above) to compliment the über tender meat. I’m all for a ton of raw onions, at the very least. Eat fast, as you do with delicious and greasy hot messes. But wet tacos make a ton of sense in the desert. It’s almost as if you’re simultaneously satisfying your hunger and quenching your thirst with each taco.
While you’re there, you might as well stay and play foosball at one of the 3 tables.
Could there be Tacos al Vapor in LA that even comes close to this execution?
Northern Baja California
With my 9 to 5 located west of Miracle Mile, I’ve had more than my fair share of lunch option challenges. Though many scoff at the food truck phenomenon that seems to never run out of steam, it’s actually been the first silver liningÂ I’ve had since I’ve resigned to witnessing the vast majority of my coworkers with Trimana sandwichesÂ at their desks around noontime.
Thanks to Pat of Eating LA for the tip-off on Tinga on La Brea and thanks to Blackboard Eats for offering their dine-in only lunch 30%-off code last week. Well, I’ve still yet to use it, since I’ve been theÂ take-awayÂ supplier to a coupleÂ coworkersÂ weaning themselves off tuna salad.Â (Proof that Blackboard Eats PR works?)
However, the memory of a particular taco
plate compostable cardboard box ($7-9 for two tacos and chips) will forever be a chapter in my book of office follies, and the Cochinita Pibil tacos are to blame. Or thank. The advice I can offer here is to, upon finishing both theseÂ tacos, go to the bathroom and wash your hands five times. Do not rub your nose with your cross-contaminated, salsa-stained forehand. Do notÂ wipeÂ your forehead, either. Do not pass Go. Not quite sure where that salsa is? A tingling sensation (dubbed: The Tinga Tingle)Â on any given extremity will tell you for sure. But like I said, best wash your hands in case your curiosity does not feel the need to be satiated. Put it in your stomach, instead.
My upper lip and the skin lining my nostrilsÂ burned til 4 o’clock.
The ego behind my heat-bearing palate became even more defeated when, after doing a search, I found Jonathan Gold made no mention of this salsa when he mentioned these very tacos in his write-up back in September. No matter. Egos aside, deliciousness typically transcends pure heat. I take that back:Â Bearable heat, anyway, because that burning sensation on my face for the duration of the afternoon sure was distracting.
I digress I’m beating the dead horse. The other favorite pork dish on their menu was definitely the Grilled Cumin & Garlic Rubbed Pork Loin Tacos ($6.50), served with pepper jack cheese, pasillas and salsa. The Flat Iron Steak Tacos ($8.50) came in chipotle tortillas and topped with tomato avocado relish, “dog snout” salsa, pickled red onions, queso fresco and lime chipotle Escabeche. The strips of steak were really the best cuts I’ve had of anyÂ fresh mex in memory.
And the quesadilla was amazingly still crisp by the time it got to our destination. The goat cheese melted with chorizo in a quesadilla is perhaps blasphemous to the most diehard of diehards but a nonetheless a brilliant combination. Though I’ve yet to try many of the sides, the Arroz Con Crema ($5) came deliciously roasted and coveredÂ with a not-too-sweet cream. Lime juice is to thank for its twist and tang.
Next up: The Dirty Horchata, or horchata with a shot of espresso in it. I’m guessing it’ll be the refreshment to accompany my first dine-in experience at Tinga. There are plenty of other menu selections I’m dying to try, so I’m certainly looking forward to the next adventure a glass of that stuff will be washing down.
Though I’m loath to call Tinga “Fresh Mex,” I think I’m already too late. I apologize for the Baja Fresh associations, because Tinga is so much, much more than that. Their food is creative, colorful and best of all, absolutely delicious. It’s a welcome departure from the $1 tacos of York and Breed Street because they’re not even in the same class. Contemporary decor, check. Compostable wares, check. This is Fresh Mex worth appreciating.
All taco plates come with 2 tacos and chips.
142 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
It was one of my last nights in Taiwan when my mom and I met one of her old childhood friends at Su Hung, a restaurant surprisingly located in a shopping structure adjacent to a subway station. As we ascended the stairs, a hot pot restaurant caught my eye – but I was ever lucky that Su Hung was the one that came recommended.
I had decided to resist the hype of Din Tai Fung, further dissuaded by word of endless waits and an eagerness to avoid being lumped into the “eating tourist” demographic. After all, why settle for the merely better-than-Arcadian version of the restaurant chain, with possibly an even worse wait? I had a bloodline to honor.
Su Hung offers not pork soup dumplings, but rather loofah-greens-and-shrimp soup dumplings. You can eat more of these than the very popular pork version and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more specialized soup dumpling anywhere else in Taipei – much less in America. There is less soup in these, but they’re a nice departure for diners looking for something lighter, a little different and less obvious.
There are plenty of other dishes at Su Hung that will quench your appetite for the savory, including the very delicious tofu dish which comes in a stone pot immersed in a broth made with braised crab eggs. Though I enjoyed pretty much everything that came out from the kitchen, this was my favorite preparation of tofu during my entire Taiwan trip (and you can guess that with all the meals shared with relatives, vegetarian and non-, there were a lot). Never the brave one to crack the middle innards of a crab shell open (I’m a leg woman), I really appreciated this delicious sauce and barely fried tofu with a texture that was silken yet could hold its own to the temperature. Boiling stone pots never fail to excite me as they approach the table – and this one far exceeded even my expectations.
If you’re looking for a unique yet delicious noodle dish, order the Simmered Noodles – a simple bowl of wheat noodles-in-chicken-broth that attains its complex taste and texture by, you guessed it, simmering for a long time. It’s dressed with tiny dried shrimp and green onion, and was perfectly comforting for that rainy day we happened to eat at Su Hung. Divy up that medium-sized bowl with your dining partners, and your seconds and thirds will show you that you wished the portion was even bigger. Guess you’ll have to order another, or another of their specialties.
And of course, the title picture may evoke memories…of the East Village. Rather than being portioned out individually at Momofuku for $9 a pop, you’ll get enough green onion, wilted cilantro (just like New York) and braised pork belly to fill 6 “bao” tacos for NT $360 (USD $12). You actually are given only 4 shells to begin with, but the waitstaff will graciously bring you more should you have more honey-braised pork belly to stuff them with. Of course, this is an unfair price point and cost-of-living comparison, but it’s just one more reason this dish is a definite must-order when you dine at Su Hung. It’s your favorite Hunan-style hamburger, ever that much closer to the source.
No meal is complete without dessert, and Su Hung has the perfect version of your typical red bean-filled sesame rice balls you would otherwise see being wheeled around, cold, on carts at San Gabriel Valley dim sum. This version comes hot and flat, like a freshly-made, sweet rice crepe, with the red bean oozing out from all sides at which it is cut.
Su Hung offers unique and well-executed dishes that will surely enrich your Taipei dining experience. It was ironic that the Taipei Times’ review of the place published online on the very day I dined there. It had mostly favorable views, consistent with my pleasant experience.Â It seems as though the businessmen that line their tables are really on to something – and those looking for a solid meal, period, would serve themselves well to take their cue.
11:30 AM – 2 PM
5:30 PM – 9 PM
Su Hung Restaurant
2-1, Jinan Rd Sec 1
Taipei City, Taiwan
Tomorrow on Thursday, June 10, 2010, Malo Restaurant in Silver Lake will be hosting the third ofÂ Tiny Bandit’sÂ series ofÂ sample sales featuring local threads for men & women. Shop lines from Akiko, Saint Grace, I [heart] Juliet, Jessica Elliot and more. Don’t forget to bring cash for your clothingÂ purchases. Let’s face it: Folks are smart when theyÂ employ “retail therapy” with alcohol.
This is not one of those shopping events where you get a gift bag at the end that’s comprised of more flyers and trash than actual schwag. Instead, you get to reap the benefits of $1 tacos and happy hour drink prices ($4-7)Â until 10 PM. Besides, you don’t really even need happy hour to go til close because you’ll probably be broke by then, anyway. So grab a couple Spicy Cucumber Margaritas and spur on the local economy. Don’t forget the $1Â tacos, either – besides,Â any seat inside Malo is aÂ lot more comfortable than any couch in the mall.
Thursday, JuneÂ 10, 2010
5 – 10 PM
$1 Tacos, Happy Hour drink prices
FlyerÂ (Cash only sale)
Photo credit to kevinv033 on Flickr
It’s Tuesday and there’s no better day of the week than to go looking for a place to take that cheap date. Nah … not really (tacky!), but if you and your buddies are jonesin’ for tacos with sit-down service, look no further. There are plenty of options around town – venues serving up a ton of different kinds at taco stand prices. Go ahead – try a different one each week to see how the tacos stack against each other.
Hudson House – $1.00 each
Dubbed “All You Can Eat Street Tacos” – just because they’re so cheap – a couple varieties are being offered by Hudson House. Prime placement for all South Bay dwellers, the resto will serve up Pollo braised with lime and tequila or Confit-style pork carnitas with creamy avocado sauce, diced onions and chopped cilantro. They’re served with charred tomato salsa, limes and fried serrano chiles. And don’t forget the drink specials with which to wash down your eats: Score a 7 oz. Pacifico or Tecate for $2.00 each or a Mexico Mule (Tequila, Ginger Beer, Grapefruit and Lime) for $5.00.
514 N. Pacific Coast Highway
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Spanish Kitchen – $2.00 each
One of the most visible spots the West Hollywood end of La Cienega, The Spanish Kitchen offers not only a whole slew of taco choices but salsas to match … or not. Choose from Grilled shrimp pesto, Beer-battered mahi, Grilled blackened salmon and Mexico BBQ pulled pork tacos. You even get to choose the kind of shell (hard or soft) your taco is served in and over 12 salsas to mix and match (Suiza blanco, Tequila lobster, Mole negro and more). These tacos are served family style so be don’t be bashful – order as many as your heart desires the first time around! It’s a party.
The Spanish Kitchen
826 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90069