LA

El Chato Wins!

I’ve been wanting to check out POT in LA because it opened pretty recently and I heard great reviews about it. It’s a Korean restaurant with a modernized twist to traditional food. I thought it’d be fun to try out something new for Derek’s birthday with some friends. We had a rough start for this occasion though. Of course, because we were in LA, parking was hard to find. We didn’t want to pay for valet at the restaurant. So we drove around the location few times and luckily found a spot a few blocks away from restaurant. We got there after a little after 8PM and found that it was a TWO HOUR wait to get seated. Extremely disappointed by the wait time, we had to walk away.

Diagonally across the street was an all you can eat Korean BBQ called Castle 2 for $10! We walk over there and the wait was about 40 minutes long. Still a little disappointed by the wait time, we decided to stick it out. After five minutes of waiting, someone somehow mentioned El Chato. El Chato is a food truck that has one of the best burritos, tacos, and quesadillas at a very affordable price! According to Yelp, it has 4.5 stars with more than 600 reviews.

General downside of El Chato is that it opens at 9PM on the corner of Wilshire and Redondo Boulevard. So we were contemplating whether or not to stick with Korean food. Going for KBBQ meant that it was going to be all you can eat at a decent price but the wait was going to take awhile. On the other hand, there was El Chato where it’s cheap and good, but we would also have to wait for at least 30 minutes until they start serving.  The four of us were going back and forth a lot, not knowing how to decide.

Phil had a genius idea to resolve our contemplation. He yelled out excitedly, “Straw poll!” He sent us all a text of a poll.

Thanks to Phil, we were able to quickly decide on what to do. El Chato easily won all of our hearts according to the poll. It was logically the best decision because you can definitely get your money’s worth at El Chato and the wait was approximately going to be the same time as Castle 2.

We drove over to El Chato and waited in the empty lot for 15-20 minutes. We were the first ones there but slowly, other hungry eaters were trailing in. Keep in mind to get there early because the line can get long quickly!

Josephine and I decided to share the Carne Asada Burrito and the Al Pastor Quesadilla. 
Once we all ordered, it took about 15-20 minutes to receive our food.

We went over to Derek’s place to eat where we inhaled everything pretty quickly. We ate so fast that we wanted more. We thought we had ordered a lot but we realized, it’s never enough to have too much of El Chato.

El Chato’s meat is juicy and quite savory. The tender meat just melts in your mouth. Late night Mexican food always seals the deal somehow and El Chato is perfect for those late munchies. You won’t be disappointed with anything on the menu. It will easily satisfy your hunger.

We had to have dessert afterwards, so we headed to Ozero in Little Tokyo which is one of my favorite boba shops in LA. I got my favorite Brown Sugar Milk Tea for almost $4. The size of their drinks are huge so it’s best that you share. I on the other hand didn’t want to share because I love their milk tea that much! We all ended our night in Little Tokyo enjoying each other’s company!

Note to future self: Get to POT really early. Always buy more than you think you can eat at El Chato. When in doubt, use Straw poll!

Thank you, Phil, for the Straw Poll idea! Happy (belated) birthday Derek!

 

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Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun

Oh man, last week’s weather was almost unbearable! I can’t believe it reached over 100 degrees in Orange County! It was so hot that it actually hurt to be outside because of the sunlight beaming so harshly.

When it’s hot, the perfect meal to eat is Korean cold noodles also known as naeng myun in Korean. They’re these chewy buckwheat noodles in this refreshing cold broth with pear, cucumber, boiled egg, and slices of beef. The cold broth is what helps you cool down from the hot weather.

My friends have been telling me to check out a popular cold noodle house in Koreatown called Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun. They kept telling me how it’s one of a kind and you’ll just want more of it. Yelp rates it with 4 out of 5 stars with more than 400 reviews. With my friends going crazy about this place and those solid ratings, I knew I couldn’t be disappointed.

Some tips to keep in mind about this place.

  1. Cash. The restaurant only accepts cash and bring a little extra for parking.
  2. Parking. It is horrendous. Be ready to just drop your car off at the tiny lot and pay $2 for valet. You can try and look for street parking but you might not have that much luck especially during lunch or dinner time. Whether you’re going to valet or look for street parking, make sure to drop off your friend to put your name on the list.
  3. Time. It’s best if you go to the restaurant at an off hour so you don’t have to wait too long. My friends and I got there right at 6PM on a Friday and probably waited for about 15-20 minutes. Once we were seated, there was suddenly a long line after us.

Here’s a quick clip of how bad the parking lot can get:

Now that we got some of the logistical items out of the way, it’s real talk now. Make sure to try a cup of their broth. It’s a self-served drink. Though it was extremely hot outside and inside the restaurant because the AC wasn’t working, the broth was soothing. The MSG in it just made it all the better. Don’t drink too much of it though because it might fill you up.

For appetizers, you have to get their Kimchi Mandoo (dumplings). I’ve never seen such large dumplings before! They really stuffed the dumplings with a lot of vegetables.

Drum roll.

And now, what we’ve all been waiting for. The naeng myun that everyone has been raving all about. How did I like it? Well! It ended up being ok. Sorry for the let down. It was slightly above average compared to all the cold noodles I’ve tried out there in the world. It was a little more tangy and sweeter which is probably what sets it apart from other ones. Other than that, nothing too exciting. It definitely was perfect for the weather but I wasn’t at the point of addiction like my other friends. They may have hyped it up a little too much.

I’d have to say that the kimchi mandoo was probably better than the naeng myun. Next time I go there, I’m going to try their bibim-naeng myun which is their spicy mixed noodles with vegetables. Now, the bibim-naeng myun looked more appetizing than mine. You pour this cold soup over the spicy noodles and then mix it all around. In general, when you eat bibim-naeng myun, it’s only the noodles, vegetables, and the spicy sauce but this place had this soup for the spicy noodles! There was this soup, I tell you!

I’m getting a little too excited about this soup because I’ve always wondered if it was possible to have bibim-naeng myun in soupy form and this house made it possible. So you can compare this soup to the fish sauce when you’re eating vermicilli at a Vietnamese restaurant. It makes the noodles more refreshing and moist.

Next time, it’s all about the broth, kimchi mandoo and the bibim-naeng myun.

Shout out to Phil and Derek! Thanks you guys for taking me. Big thanks to Phil for driving and for suggesting the kimchi mandoo!

Old Vine Cafe

Though I’ve been to The Camp, located in Costa Mesa’s hipster area, a billion two times for Milk and Honey, The Black Market Bakery, or Umami Burger, for some odd reason, I never made the effort to check out other restaurants there. Old Vine Cafe was one I had yet to check out. Luckily, my friend, Hannah, was in town and was craving it. So Sunday afternoon, Catherine and I went to the Old Vine to meet up with Hannah. It’s a great place to check out because Yelp shows some solid reviews. This place has more than 1,200 reviews with 4 out of 5 stars.

It was surprisingly busy when we got there late afternoon! We waited for 30-45 minutes to get seated but the wait wasn’t actually too bad only because we were having an intense conversation! So time actually flew by pretty quickly.

Catherine and I shared the Pumpkin Spice French Toast with fruits and dried nuts.

I have to say that I loved it! The flavor of it wasn’t too heavy and the texture was almost soft like a pound cake. The French toast seemed more like a dessert than any sort of meal. It reminded me of the softer and sweeter version of the Asian brick toast. Downside about this French Toast was that it was more on the pricy end of about $15. It doesn’t hurt to try it once though!

Hannah got the Caramel Apple French toast. Now, her French toast looked like a masterpiece!

I wouldn’t mind going back just for that French Toast. Maybe I’ll actually try it in the morning rather than as a late afternoon lunch meal.

Thanks Mrs. Kim for coming all the way down to Orange County to hang out with me and Catherine! Please tell your hubby that we said thank you for treating us out! We were thankful for all the wisdom you shared with us! Can’t wait to learn more from you!

Throw Back Thursday : Foodie Adventure

Happy #TBT aka Throw Back Thursday! I look forward to TBT’s because it makes me reminisce about all the good times in life. Today, I’m throwing it back to Saturday, November 23, 2013 when I gathered a bunch of friends together for a “Foodie Adventure” as I called it to explore San Gabriel Valley. I’ve been there once, twice, but three times! Yet, I still can’t get enough of San Gabriel Valley because it has too many good places to eat.

The one place I had been wanting to try out since forever ago was Newport Tan Cang. This place has more than 1,500 reviews on Yelp with 4.5 stars! I had to take everyone here because I knew it couldn’t be a disappointment except the wait! The last time I tried to go there, the wait was 2 hours long! I knew that if I wanted to try that place out, I had to have a better game plan next time.

So I tweeted 626 Foodettes for some help since they are knowledgeable of the 626 area, hence their name. (Side note: This is why I love social media!)

With that, I thought it was best to leave from Orange County at 3:30PM. Even with some lag time, my friends and I were able to get there on time before the crazy long wait started. We got there a little before 5PM and waited for 30 minutes to get seated which wasn’t too bad compared to the normal 2 hour wait.

Girls were seated on one side.

Of course, the boys were on the other side.

Luckily, Doug was there to help us order some good Hong Kong style food. Thanks Doug! Everything we ordered was family style because we’re a family! Ok, I know that was cheesy…

We first got the House Special Lobster which is one of their most popular items on the menu. It was messy to eat BUT it was definitely the winner on the table for all of us.

Another popular item we ordered was the Beef Loc Lac – French Style. Now this was tender meat that melted in my mouth!

We also got the lettuce wrap, deep fried tofu, and some clams.

There was a point where no one said anything because the food was seriously that good. We were too focused on enjoying the food rather than each other’s company! We didn’t even realize the silence until someone had mentioned it!

We each paid about $15 including tip and tax for everything we ate. We were all stuffed but I’m sure we could have eaten a tad bit more because that darn lobster was one of a kind. Actually, everything on that table was darn good!

As a tradition when I’m in SGV, I have to end the night with Factory Tea Bar. It’s a hip boba place to hang out with your friends. The atmosphere is great but of course, the drinks are good! According to Yelp, this place has more than 700 reviews with 4 out 5 stars! Because we had dinner at an off hour, we arrived to Factory Tea Bar at an off hour also which worked out perfectly. We got seated pretty quickly around 8 or 8:30PM. Factory Tea Bar can get really busy just like Newport Tan Cang so definitely get there early especially if you want the good seats like the couches.

We played a lot of games there like Jenga and various card games.

I ordered my usual Honey Green Milk Tea. It’s the drink that never disappoints me or anyone else! If you end up not liking it for whatever reason, Factory Tea Bar is always good about customer satisfaction. They will adjust your drink accordingly as many times as necessary!

We hung out for awhile until food coma started kicking in. So we had to prepare ourselves for the hour long drive back to Orange County. It was a lot of fun eating good food and ending the night with some sweets and fun games!

Thanks Andrew, Anne, Annie, Daniel, Doug, Elaine, Eric, Josephine, Shawn, Stacy, and Victoria for joining me on this Foodie Adventure! Big thanks to those who drove!

Sorry but not sorry if this post made you hungry.

Valentine’s Celebration

On Valentine’s Day, I went to LA with Linda to meet up with Sarah and her husband. Don’t worry, Linda and I didn’t crash their Valentine’s night! We met up at School Food Blooming Roll in Koreatown. They’re known for traditional Korean comfort food with some modernized twist to it.

We first ordered their kimchi fried rice. Don’t let the spicy look of this fried rice deceive you! It was actually nowhere close to being spicy. Even if you don’t like spicy food, this will not burn your tongue. The kimchi fried rice hit the spot really well because it had that homey taste to it just like how all kimchi fried rice should be. It reminded me of my mom’s cooking.

Now what was actually spicy was the labokki (lah-boh-kee). It’s ramen, rice cake, and fish cake with egg all mixed in some awesome spicy Korean sauce. The labokki was good but could’ve have been a lot better for a few reasons. One. The consistency of the spicy soup seemed a little off. It may have been a little too liquid-y but not bad enough to lose its taste. Two. There weren’t enough noodles in my labokki! Next time, I’m bringing my own pack of ramen to throw into the bowl. Three. The texture of the noodles were too soft for my liking. I think a lot of us who eat ramen like the noodles right before they’re fully cooked.

We ordered three different kinds of kim-bop which is Korean’s version of sushi. We got the spam roll. It’s a simple roll of spam wrapped around with egg. Nothing too special but having spam in anything always makes thing better!

We also ordered one of the Special Rolls and it wasn’t too special. For the most part, it was just like eating your ordinary kim-bop.

Lastly, the most unique one of all was the Squid Ink Roll. Though the color of the roll is pretty black, you can barely taste the ink itself. You can definitely taste and feel the squid as there are some pieces of it wrapped up in the roll. Eating the Squid Ink Roll wasn’t as exciting as the name sounded.

Out of the three rolls, my favorite would have to be the Spam Roll. I’m telling you, spam always brings justice to whatever you eat. Thank you, spam.

Overall, everything I tried was good. There wasn’t anything too exciting that made me want more. In general, it was pretty overpriced especially since they were all simple meals that you can easily make at home for a cheaper deal. Would I come back here again? Eh, most likely not. I’m just thankful that Linda and I were able to meet up with Sarah and Howard for dinner!

For dessert, we went over to Loft Cafe that was about 10 minutes away from School Food. As I entered into Loft Cafe, I really felt like I was in a Korean drama. I’ve never seen so many young and hip Korean couples in one setting before. I know it was Valentine’s Day, but still. The ambiance of the cafe and the people in there just brought the K-drama feel to it.

We sat outside in the patio where it was decorated with Christmas lights. They gave us blankets to stay warm since it was a tad bit chilly even with the heat lamps.

We ordered a waffle with scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream that were surrounded by strawberries and banana. It was all drizzled in chocolate and covered in sugar powder. That waffle was something. It was fresh and sweet! It wasn’t your ordinary Eggo Waffles where it’s bland but there was a light buttery sweetness to it.

Sweet potato is one valuable vegetable in the Korean culture. Actually, I’m not sure how valuable it is, but it is to me and my belly. We eat it with pizza, as dessert, and in lattes! Yup, lattes. So I got myself a $6 sweet potato latte. This latte is a little thicker than your normal latte from Starbucks. It’s a pretty heavy latte that can fill you up easily which it did for me. But I loved it! It’s best to drink it when it’s warm because once it gets cold, it almost seems like you’re drinking a sweet potato soup instead. When my latte got cold and I was down to the last several sips of it, it just didn’t taste as good as when I first got it warm.

After feasting for hours in good company, it was time to head back home. Thank you Sarah and Howard for treating us out to dinner on Valentine’s Day. It was a lot of fun just laughing at some old stories! Also, thank you Linda for dessert and spending some quality time with me! Can’t believe other people were in the way of our friendship! It was such a blessing to have hung out with you all!

Late Night Dessert

I’ve been hearing about how Magnolia Bakery has the best bread pudding! So Elaine, Derek, and I were all in LA together one late night and went to go check it out. We got there right before they were about to close! Magnolia Bakery has a cottage design to it that gives it a quaint and homey feel. Downside about this cute place is that there aren’t a lot of seating available inside and parking can be a bust.

We ordered a large tub of their popular breading pudding for $6. Because there weren’t a lot of seating available inside, we went outside. Once we sat down and tried a spoon of it, oh man, it was game over. The breading pudding was so much more than what I expected. I knew it was going to be good, but not THAT GOOD!

Everything about the bread pudding made me speechless. We definitely had a moment of silence to enjoy its goodness. The overall flavor of the bread pudding was simple and sweet. Finding pieces of banana and bread within the pudding were pleasant surprises! The only problem I had about it was that there weren’t enough bread and banana. At the end, there was more pudding than bread or banana left. I was still fine with just the pudding though.

I think I could have finished that ‘large’ tub by myself. I’m putting large in quotes because it wasn’t that large.

This bread pudding is perfect for all sorts of occasion. If you’re happy, treat yourself to some bread pudding from Magnolia Bakery. If you just got out of a relationship, then please treat yourself to some bread pudding. It’s a tub of happiness that will put you in a better mood!

After Magnolia Bakery, we went to Saffron and Rose Ice Cream. It’s a Persian ice cream shop which I’ve never tried before. It’s a popular hole in the wall ice cream shop to check out if you’re ever in the Westwood area in LA. Yelp gives them a 4.5 stars out of 5 with almost 600 reviews!

The three of us shared a medium with 3 different flavors. We got the Saffron pistachio, white rose, and green tea. What makes this ice cream shop different compared to others is the texture and its unique flavors. I loved the saffron pistachio because of its light nutty taste and the fact that there were actual pieces of pistachio in there.

The white rose was a unique one in a good way. It definitely had a floral taste which was refreshing. In general, I’m not a fan of dessert or tea that taste flowery because all I think of is potpourri. But! This white rose ice cream gave me hope that not all desserts with a flower name will be like potpourri.

The green tea wasn’t as special as the other two but was still good. It wasn’t as creamy as regular ice cream or gelato.

As we were eating our ice cream, the table next to us who were Persian started talking to us. They were curious about our Korean culture and wanted to learn the language. Luckily, Elaine was there to save me and Derek from saying anything wrong about our culture. So Elaine started teaching one of them the Korean alphabet and I think the guy got it down better than me! Talking to them was a great way to end our late night dessert adventure!

Thanks Elaine and Derek for showing me around some hip dessert places in LA! Next time, let’s start the night early and check out more places. Maybe we’ll have a repeat of Diabes Hang Out.

#Twinsters

I’m not sure what it is but I always have a heart for those who are adopted. Maybe it’s because I have a niece and nephew who were adopted from Korea and a cousin. Perhaps it is because I have been adopted into God’s family. Not sure of the real reason why I get choked up so easily when I hear adoption stories but I just do.

Recently, there’s been a Twinster story that has been going viral through social media. Two identical twin sisters were separated at birth. One grew up here in America and the other in Europe. Long story short, the European twin, Anais, noticed that there was someone who looked a lot like her on YouTube. Next thing you know, she Facebooks her potential sister and they find out they are actually twins!

The twin sisters are not only physically alike but also in their personality and interests! Check out how they interact in this interview on Good Morning America!

They’re in the process of putting a documentary together on their experience of finding each other. Watch the #Twinsters trailer:

Ok, I’m not going to lie, I teared up watching the interview and the trailer! I’m so happy for them even though I don’t know them at all! I can’t wait to watch their documentary when it’s out. I’m definitely a supporter of documentaries like these.

I’m still a fan of the film, Somewhere Between. It’s a documentary that I watched awhile back on American families adopting babies from China. I cried like a baby watching that documentary. I felt like I was adopted after watching that. Documentaries, they know how to get me.

Support the #Twinsters through their Kickstarter! Click here to learn more about them!