Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hollywood: Venturing into Thai Town!

After living in LA for all these years, I've never been to Thai Town in Hollywood. Heck, I don't even remember the last time I was in Hollywood, except for a night out. Last year Michael gave me a gift certificate to Six Taste, a walking culinary tour in LA focusing on different neighborhoods of LA, so I asked him to book the Thai Town tour for me in January. Thai Town was always one of those places I wanted to check out, but never really got a chance to.

It was on a Sunday and our little group consisted of Michael, Tiff Tseng, Tiff Hsu, Diana, Ken, and a few others. Now, I did have a little reservation about the whole walking tour idea since I went out the night before and wasn't sure if I was really up to the task of walking for 3 hours, but our tour guide Wanda was great and informative, and as soon as she introduced herself to us, I knew we were in good hands.

Six Taste Tour: Thai Town Food Tour
Guide: Wanda

The tour started out at the Thai Angel statues that sits on Hollywood Blvd. Was definitely surprised to find out that Los Angeles has the biggest Thai population outside of Thailand, and Thai Town is even referred as the 78th province of Thailand!


Plaque (click to enlarge).

Wanda started out the tour with a little introduction of Thai Town and a little treat for us: tamarind! I've never seen tamarind in its original state so that was pretty awesome.

Inside! Somewhat fibrous. Sweet.

First stop: Silom Supermarket, an authentic Thai market!

What we came here for: Kanom Beuang! Kanom Beuang is essentially a thin crepe or wafer then topped with meringue and either coconut or strips of egg.

Making the "Thai taco."

The coconut is actually salted so it is more savory while the egg is the sweet one out of the two. Sorta expected the other way around haha.

Egg + meringue + thin wafer

Salted coconut "taco"

Next stop, Pa Ord for some Northeastern Thai cuisine.

Hours & address.

So this part of the tour focused on the Northeastern-style Thai sausage, Isaan sausages, which is this tangy pork sausage. The reason why it is "tangy" is because it is actually fermented. Comes with all sorts of veggies to eat the sausage with. Definitely one of the most unique things on this tour.

Wrapped by ginger.

Personally, I like it with garlic straight up :P

Next stop, we got a taste of how Thai eats breakfast at Siam Sunset, which is a small hole-in-the-wall located inside a motel. There's no sign outside, or at least I couldn't find one. Love these places! Wanda is showing us how to eat Pa Tong Go, which is Chinese donuts, aka 油條 youtiao.

Pa Tong Go!

Eaten with condensed milk. I also had it with condensed milk once at this breakfast place in Taipei.

A little more doughy than the Chinese counterparts, and smaller so easier to eat haha.

At Siam Sunset, we also got our drinks. The selections were Thai Iced Tea, Thai Iced Coffee, Iced lemon Tea, Chrysanthemum Tea, and Coconut Palm Juice. A lot of people went with the coconut palm juice.

I went with the Thai Iced Coffee, since I needed a boost of caffeine. Very strong and bitter then it is offset by the condensed milk and cream.

Next, to the popular Sanamluang Cafe.

Front of menu.

duck stew noodle soup
First up, Roasted Duck Noodle Soup. What's crazy about this is that they add cinnamon to it! A little weird but very tasty and unique! The flat noodles and the roasted duck were amazing.

pad kee mow!
Something that I know really well, Pad Kee Mao :] Spicy and greasy. Perfect.

ong choy with soy bean sauce
Perhaps my favorite of the tour: Stir-fry Morning Glory with Soybean Sauce. Morning glory, aka ong choy, aka water spinach, is my favorite veggie of all time, and Sanamluang Cafe has a super tasty version of it! Been eating ong choy since I was born but never had it with soybean sauce.

Had to take a picture of this :P And it was a beautiful day!

Off to Ruen Pair for our food challenge!

Wanda mentioned that we would have a food challenge at the beginning of the tour and it was eating spicy raw shrimp!

To be honest... don't think it is such a big deal for most Asians that have been eating sashimi but I can see why people would say no :P Look at that gelatinous goodness!

The spicy soy dressing. Straight up addicting.

Wanda showing us how to eat the shrimp.

A little bit of cilantro, cabbage, add the shrimp and the dressing... I think I did alright. Not as pretty as Wanda's that is for sure haha.

Moo Daed Diew, which is pork jerky. Great dish and that sauce, again, so damn good!

The fried pork can be eaten with sticky rice, which comes in that basket.

Som Tam Thai, young papaya salad. Much needed after all the salty dishes.

Pad Prik King with chicken. Spicy green beans!

Afterwards, we went to Red Corner Asia, which is actually in the same plaza for more food!

Coconut Ice Cream. There's actual coconut chunks in it.

Ginger Fish Filet. Fried fish then wokked with all sorts of ingredients. Even though it is fried, flavor-wise, it is one of the "calmer" dishes.

Before we went back to the market, we stopped by Bhan Kanom Thai, which is a Thai sweets shop.

Kanom Kruk, coconut pudding. Essentially it is a coconut batter cooked in a cast iron mold, and the middle is still sorta uncooked so when you bite into it, it has a pudding-like texture. Awesome.

Chewy and soft at the same time.

They also sell durian chips.... not.. for me.

Afterwards, we went back to the Silom Supermarket, where Wanda showed us what ingredients to get if we wanted to make our own morning glory with soybean sauce. Saw a bag of Tom Yum Crisps... interesting haha.

Tiffany went absolutely berserk and got more of kanom beuang!

Definitely a fun and informative day! One thing that did strike me was that most of the dishes we've had were more family-style rather than individual entree. Looking through the menu at all the restaurants, there's so much more items as well that is meant for family-style. I've never really enjoyed Thai food in the States like I did in Taiwan, until today. Thai food in Taiwan is obviously changed a little to suit Taiwanese's palates but I really enjoy the family-style aspect of it rather than people ordering their own noodles or curries, so looking forward to the next time I head into Hollywood for some authentic Thai food!

Oh and next month, off to Taipei and NYC!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Los Angeles: Hello Ludobites 8.0!!

So LudoBites is currently going on, now in its 8th edition. The reservation this time around is based on a lottery system, so whether you get a reservation is completely based on luck and if the slot they give you doesn't work, then you lose the reservation. I heard from LudoBites that it was only a 5% chance. Somehow... I was able to score a table for four this past Monday (1/30/2012)! Of course I replied and said yes :]

Same as last time, we ordered EVERYTHING on the menu. We were afraid that with just the four of us (Michael, Ray, Diana & me), we weren't going to finish everything, but figured, what the hell, only 5% of the people scored a reservation, might as well go all out! This LudoBites was definitely more... decadent and luxurious than the last in my opinion. Ingredients more exotic and there's more of a fusion from different cuisines. A lot of Japanese influence this time around. A few items really stood out while a few we didn't care too much for. There were also a few that totally surprised us in terms of the flavor and the preparation.

LudoBites 8.0 @ Lemon Moon
12200 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

LudoBites for Monday, January 30th :]

saison rue
Unlike last time, there's an actual wine & beer list since Lemon Moon does have the alcohol license. It wasn't a wine sort of night for our party so we went with the 750ml beers on the menu, both from The Bruery in OC. The Saison Rue is a light Belgian and perfect beer to start the night with.

saison rue
Really good Belgian, with a hint of fruity note. Saison generally refers to a French farmhouse pale ale with low alcohol content, but the Saison Rue has about 8.0% and unfiltered so you can actually age the beer!

brioche seaweed yuzu butter
First up: Brioche with Seaweed Yuzu Butter! Now... what part about that does not sound good? Buttery brioche bread then smeared with a "healthy" dose of the seaweed yuzu butter. The yuzu just pops. We split the bread 4-ways and there was a little bit of butter left over from the knife... so I just licked the butter. Yum :]

chicken tandoori crackling
We absolutely loved the Chicken Tandoori Crackling. Fried chicken skin with tandoori spices, then topped with liver mousse and sea salt. The whole thing is a bit salty but we didn't really care cause it was so damn good! Who doesn't like crispy chicken skin?? It looked like a pita chip with some hummus on top, but nope, it is chicken skin!

big eye tuna, tahitian vanilla, somen, 7 flavor vinaigrette
So the meal started out with a dish with Japanese influence (yuzu), the Big Eye Tuna with Tahitian Vanilla, Somen, Basil and Seven Flavor Vinaigrette is straight up Japanese-esque with the exception of the basil. Tuna was great and the basil is very refreshing. I'm going to guess the seven flavor means the seven spice Japanese or Chinese uses. The somen was a little meh.

sweet shrimp, miso cream, smoked salmon, cannellini
Another dish with Japanese influence: Sweet Shrimp with Miso Cream, Smoked Salmon, and Cannellini Beans. The miso cream was definitely the star in this dish and the creaminess went very well with the smoky smoked salmon.

raw beef, radish, beets, eel
Like last time, there's a beef tartare dish: Raw Beef with Radish, Beets, and Eel.

raw beef
Right beside the raw beef, there's this frozen thing... I do not know what it is but it is sorta frozen by nitrogen or something.... it was good hahah.

my creation
My little creation!

awesome beer
We decided to go with the Trois Poules Francais from The Bruery for our second bottle of beer, which is this Belgian-style dark ale that's brewed with syrah grapes and then aged in wine barrel! You definitely taste the tart acidic grape and all the usual flavors you'd associate with wine, except in a beer! The sommelier referred to it as a sour-mash style beer. I've always wondered what wine + beer would taste like, although I'm sure it won't taste as good as this in real life :P

trois poules francais
Absolutely amazing beer. The first sip is very surprising with the tartness hitting you right away. I actually tried to find it at Bevmo and Total Wine but they sold out months ago since it was a winter release. Boo. I did find 4 bottles of Saison Rue at Total Wine and cleaned out their inventory haha.

foie gras, tamarin, turnips, daikon
Foie Gras with Tamarin, Turnips, and Daikon. The flavors are very surprising and totally wakes you up thanks to the tamarin. I never had foie gras in a soup either so that was a very interesting experience. It's almost like.... eating uni. In fact, it tastes like uni!

foie gras
Soft... smooth and melt-in-your-mouth foie gras.

scallops, leek, potato, black truffles
Scallops with Leek and Potato Sauce then topped with Shaved Black Truffle. I heart truffle so I could not wait to dive into this dish. Truffle oil is a common ingredient nowadays with many restaurants serving up some sort of dish utilizing the oil, but if you've never had fresh truffle... it is totally different. The flavors are much more subtle and earthy, instead of the intense flavor from the oil.

raw scallops
The sauces were a nice complement to the shaved truffle. Not a huuuuge fan of raw scallop but it was fresh at least :P

john dory, squash, fennel, tonka beans,
John Dory with Squash, Fennel, Tonka Beans, and Lemon sauce. John Dory is a name for a type of fish, and not a pretty one :P However, when pan fried then topped with all sorts of sauces, it was pretty good. The lemon sauce to the side was definitely the best since lemon + seafood just go so well together.

monkfish liver, cucumber, cornichons, mustard seeds
I didn't care too much for the Monkfish Liver with Cumcumber, Cornichons, and Mustard Seeds. There's already too much "liver" by the time we got to this dish with foie and the mousse.

monkfish liver
The few bites I did take was good though since the liver had a very buttery texture and when paired with the pickled cucumber, it was a nice contrast.

pickles & mustard
Pickled cucumber and the sweet mustard seeds.

duck, orange, olives, carrots
Like last time, there's also a duck dish: Duck with Orange, Carrots, and Olive Spread. Duck with skin still on it = win. I did like the duck a lot more this time than LudoBites 007's.

Sweetness from the sauce goes very well with the salty olive spread. Loved the candied orange peel too!

jidori half chicken, parmesan, celery root soubise, walnuts
Biggest entree of the night: Jidori Half Chicken with Parmesan, Celery Root Soubise, and Walnuts.

jidori chicken
It is also my favorite "main dish" of the night. The chicken was super tender and moist. Michael was not a fan of the celery root "foam" but I liked it :P

goat cheese profiteroles, pistachio, crispy leaves
Goat Cheese Profiteroles with Pistachio Spread and Crispy Leaves. The only dish that night that I didn't like. Profiteroles is essentially a cream puff but I didn't get too much from the goat cheese and the crispy leaves, most likely kale, weren't crispy enough so it was really oily. The pistachio spread though, was A+. Give me toast and I'll be happy with just the pistachio spread haha.

goat cheese profiteroles
... totally forgot about that green sauce but that's not the pistachio spread :P Pistachio is underneath the profiterole, with that mustard green color.

open kitchen
Chef Ludo on the right working hard haha.

lemon meringue & poppyseed crumble
Of course, gotta go for the desserts! This time around, there's no weird and crazy combinations, just classics with a little twist. My favorite out of the two they offered was the Lemon Meringue & Poppyseed Crumble with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It is essentially a deconstructed lemon meringue pie with the poppyseed crumble acting as the pie crust. Strong lemon flavors with the light & fluffy meringue, the dessert is give a bit more fruity flavor with the EVOO. There's also some candied lemon peel!

apple tartin & ice cream
Apple Tart Tartine with Salted Caramel and Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream. A very... nostalgic sorta dessert with a LudoBites version of apple pie and a flavor from many people's childhood, orange creamsicle. The salted caramel sorta brings you back with the nutty buttery sweetness. There's also these little seeds on the side, and we guessed it was fennel seeds? That was interesting, but we mostly left it alone :P

apple tart tartin
Apple tart tartine and the salted caramel. Apples were not too mushy and still had a bite.

orange dreamsicle ice cream
Orange creamsicle ice cream. I want more.

All in all, we had a great time, sampling all the dishes. LudoBites is really more about the experience and eating a dish that you probably won't see ever again. In the end our bill was about $97 per person... so it is a little pricey. I was a bit sad that I didn't get to try the Uni Creme Brulee since it was the most popular dish served this time. However they couldn't source the uni from their supplier so they didn't offer it that night... sigh. Since the menu changes daily, with some staples, everybody's LudoBites experience can be different.

Maybe I'll do a walk-in...