I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point over the past 10 years pad thai went from being the most popular Thai food dish to the laughing stock of so called serious eaters everywhere. “You don’t want to order the pad thai” has become the rallying cry of so called “foodies”, even though it blends together all the best parts of Thai cooking. Sweet. Spicy. Sour. Funky. Well, consider this the backlash to the backlash. There is some seriously awesome Pad Thai to be had in Los Angeles right now… and with Andy Ricker’s Pok Pok Phat Thai set to open any day now, it’s only going to get better. In the meantime here’s a list of my 10 favorite versions of pad thai that I put together for DineLA.
It would appear as if L.A. is in the midst of an Asian chain invasion. Following in the footsteps of Din Tai Fung, the famous Taiwanese dumpling shop with 2 locations in Arcadia and 1 in Glendale, we’ve seen a steady stream of big (?) names from overseas open all over the city. Korean BBQ from Kang Hodong Baekjong, Sichuan specialities from Meizhou Dongpo, Hai Di Lao’s hot pot, and Japanese ramen chain Larmen Dosanko are just a few of the new spots looking to test how hungry L.A. eaters are for “authentic” Asian experiences- without having to go through LAX. The latest to join the parade is Mister Bossam, a South Korean cafe specializing in pork belly and something called “LA Grilled Cheese Baby Pork Ribs”.
8 years ago this week as a wee lad lunching in Midtown Manhattan I stumbled upon this sign perched high above Madison Avenue. Promising the world’s finest noodle shop; pointing to nothing. Being a hub for Japanese businessmen, Midtown already had its share of ramen joints but it would still be another two years before the Japanese chain Ippudo brought truly great ramen to New York City. In other words, the opening or closing of a Midtown ramen shop in 2014 would barely register a raised eyebrow. In 2006, the Larmen Dosanko sign was a truly exciting mystery.
With a little bit of online sleuthing, I discovered that Larmen Dosanko was one of very first and largest ramen chains in Japan. “The McDonald’s of Japan” according to this 1981 article in the New York Times. In the 70s they expanded to New York, serving up noodles in soup or sautéed with meat or veggies, but by the time this photo was taken all of the branches had closed down. Well, last week Dosanko quietly returned to the United States. But instead of New York they decided on Los Angeles, taking over the Ramenya space on Olympic near Barrington.
And 8 years after seeing that mysterious sign, I finally got to taste what Larmen Dosanko was all about.
Bad news from Chowhound about Zam Zam Market, our favorite Pakistani halal place in Culver City, and ironically enough one of the 5 most underrated lunches we wrote about last month. Due to rising rents, they’re being forced to move out of their longtime location on Washington- in the shadow of the King Fahad mosque. Considering the more recent success of neighbors like Copenhagen Pastry, Yamadaya Ramen, and the new shopping area on the corner of Sepulveda and Washington, it’s no surprise that their location can command a much higher rent than Zam Zam can afford. But it doesn’t make it any less sad to lose such a great neighborhood place. (Full disclosure: This place is walking distance from my house.)
There was talk that they’re looking for a new space in Hawthorne, but the guy working behind the counter today said they were looking to stay in the neighborhood- close to the mosque, and their current customer base. Fingers crossed the latter is true. In the meantime, you’ve got 4 more days to enjoy their insanely awesome food. Thursday for lunch they’ll have the same $10 combo they always have, with chicken biryani, tandoori chicken, kebab, and a few other dishes from the steam table. Friday there will be the chicken pies and lamb pulau. Saturday during the day they’ll have lamb and chicken biryani; Saturday night they’ll have curries as well. And Sunday, they’ll have Pakistani breakfast, in addition to the birayni they always have.
Zam Zam Market, 11028 W. Washington Blvd. 310-331-2504
Come See Food is the New Rock Podcast Live on Stage for the First Time in L.A. at the Eastside Food Festival
If you haven’t heard about it yet… super excited to be involved in the Eastside Food Festival November 9th at Mack Sennett Studios to benefit PATH. Admittedly our definition of east side might be a little broader than most, but when else are you going to be able to drink micheladas from Guelaguetza, and eat food from Carnitas el Momo, Pine & Crane, Alimento, and Starry Kitchen all in one place. We not only helped to curate the 20+ restaurants that will be serving food at the event, but there will also be a Food is the New Rock stage with demos and panels featuring chefs, musicians, and artists from the neighborhood. Evan Kleiman (from KCRW) will be moderating a restauranteurs panel that includes Jessica Koslow from Sqirl, Craig Thornton from Wolvesmouth, Ari Taymor from Alma, and Terri Wahl from Auntie Em’s Kitchen. And I’ll be moderating an artists panel featuring comedian Eric Wareheim, and musicians Morgan Kibby from M83, Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint, and Mark Trombino from Donut Friend, which will be recorded and released as a podcast. There will also be an oyster shucking demo featuring Spencer from L&E and Matt from Bar Covell that’s hosted by Jason Stewart (aka DJ Themjeans) and Skylight Books will have a booth featuring book signings throughout the event.
Last week Adam Perry Lang (formerly of Daisy May’s BBQ in NYC) returned to the Hollywood parking lot behind Jimmy Kimmel’s studio for another go-round of his Serious Barbecue pop up. Once again it’s Tuesday through Friday, food is available during lunchtime from 11am to 3pm, and this time it’s only until October 24th, so you’ve officially got only 10 days left to taste some of the best smoked meat in Southern California.
Adam is still sleeping on the lot (the meat goes into the smoker around 8pm the night before), he’s still making his own charcoal out of pecan wood (and white oak from California), and the giant beef rib is back. But here are 5 things that have changed from last year to this year that you’ll probably want to know about…
1. APL has a new smoker, and it was custom made by Aaron Franklin in Austin, TX. Yes, that Aaron Franklin. So with an Aaron Franklin smoker, there must be brisket right? Yup. And it’s available for the relatively-reasonable-compared-to-the-beef-rib price of $15. Warning though… Adam still prefers a milder smoking process with homemade charcoal in place of fresh wood, so if you’re expecting a intensely smokey Texas style BBQ you will be pretty disappointed.
A few weeks back L.A. Weekly released its annual “Best of” issue, a terrific resource for discovering not just food but all sorts of great stuff in and around Los Angeles. But it got me thinking of all the places I love that never seem to get mentioned on these lists. Not local favorites that you wouldn’t drive across town for, but places serving the honest to goodness best in show versions of what they do… and rarely, if ever, getting recognized for it.
Here are 5 of my favorite lunches, that aren’t quite household names here in L.A. (but should be.)
1. Zam Zam Market – Ok, so this is kind of the place that inspired this list. I was excited to read about Bangla Bazaar and Restaurant when it was named Best Biryani in the city by L.A. Weekly last week, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this Culver City gem hidden in the shadow of the King Fahad Mosque. Despite the minefield of bones and spices, their biryani is the best I’ve ever had. And their tandoori chicken, with its caked-on spice paste, isn’t far behind. And if that doesn’t sell you, go on Friday and the meat pies and lamb pulao will. Sure, the hours are weird and there’s no menu. And you may or may not feel like you’re eating on a Walking Dead set. But every time I go back I am surprised all over again that it’s never gotten its proper place in the pantheon of Los Angeles south Asian food. (I’m looking at you Mr. Gold.) 11028 W Washington Blvd, Culver City. 310-841-2504