Archive for March 2011

Wakasan Now Open For Lunch; Serving Ramen and More in Westwood


If you like the chef’s choice style of Japanese omakase (me!), you’re a mildly adventurous eater (also me!) and you’re a cheap bastard (guilty again!) chances are you’ve heard of Wakasan in Westwood. Nobody would call it the absolute best omakase in a city that houses Nozawa, Urasawa, and Kiyokawa but it is without a doubt the best value. For $35 you are treated to a tasty mix of raw and cooked izakaya style small plates, exquisitely presented in a laid back setting that could just as easily be serving spicy tuna rolls and chicken teriyaki. Sure there are more expensive options available ($55, $75, $95) but those must be ordered a day in advance. In other words, the chef isn’t looking to up-sell and sticker shock is not a concern. This place is meant to be a bargain, and it really is.

So you can imagine how excited I was when my buddy Sam told me that they recently started serving lunch, and it turns out, unsurprisingly, to be just as much of a steal as their dinner. Wakasan’s take on ramen and the bento box… after the jump.

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For Cheap Korean Sushi, Ssing Ssing Is Your Spot


Exploring other cultures through their cuisine is one of the most fun things about eating, and one of the most exciting things about L.A. is how many restaurants you can find who are making food from other continents without dumbing it down for the American taste buds. But not all adapted dishes are bad… and hybrids can end up being just as delicious as something that is supposedly “authentic” (after all,  if you look back far enough every dish we call “authentic” today likely has roots outside of its country of origin.)  If the Chinese didn’t try to make Chinese food for Americans, there would be no orange chicken from Panda Express (it’s horrible to even think about it.)   Japanese?   Spicy mayo *is* delicious on everything!  And Mexico?  Well, if you haven’t tried the hard shell goodness of Tito’s Tacos you haven’t lived.  Oh, and don’t get me started on New York pizza.

The best part is, we’re not the only ones that do this.  In Korea they have their own version of Chinese food that is awesome (jjanjangmyeon anybody?)  And they have their own version of sushi (kimbap) and a bibimbapped version of the chirashi bowl (hwedupbap).  Kimbap is something I’ve been eating for awhile, but I’m kind of new to the whole hwedupbap thing- raw cubes of fish served salad style over rice with veggies and red pepper sauce.  Sadly- just like sushi, the best versions of hwedupbap are going to be over $10 (like the one at Guru approved A-Won).  So when I heard that Ssing Ssing (on Vermont & 7th in K-Town) made a good version for $9, I was pretty excited.

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PROFILE: L.A. Lunch’er “Sade”

As is customary on Midtown Lunch, every Tuesday we profile a random reader to get their recommendations for the best spots to lunch near their work. This week its Sade, a photographer and food enthusiast with some great lunch recs.

Name: Sade

Age: 25

Occupation: Photographer, Director, Food Enthusiast & Blogger

Where in L.A. do you Work?: SW Editorial & Strictly Foodie (Los Angeles & San Diego)

Favorite Kind of Food: Currently, a tie between Korean & Himalayan

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Fast Food chains (EXCEPT In-N-Out :)

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch: Jitlada (5233 W Sunset Blvd, Hollywood) – Thai Food, with a separate, extensive menu of AUTHENTIC Thai dishes. Spiciness for serious pain junkies. I adore their curries! Little Next Door (8142 W 3rd St, Mid City West) – Delicious, impeccable, AFFORDABLE French cuisine. Je t’aime! I live for their breakfast, and their Mini Pot de Creme. Hot Wings Cafe (7011 Melrose Ave) – Truly spicy wings, and a fun, casual atmosphere. I get the half-spicy BBQ-half-extra hot 8-piece. PERFECT for late night wing cravings as well. Genwa (5115 Wilshire Blvd, Mid Wilshire) – Awesome Korean dishes as well as Korean BBQ. Their 20+ different kinds of banchan make it worth the visit before the real food even arrives! Taste of Belize (1271 S La Brea Ave) – Growing up in a Belizean family, eating out means going over to someone’s house for an excellent meal. Taste of Belize is as close to Belizean home-cooking as it gets; stewed chicken and black soup(!) are childhood favorites. Daikokuya (327 E 1st St, Downtown) – Easily the BEST ramen I’ve had in my life so far (and the longest line I’ve had to wait in for it).

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I Will Begrudgingly Admit The Lobsta Truck is Awesome


We here at Midtown Lunch have always believed that $10 is the most you should have to spend to get a delicious lunch near where you work. Of course that often puts things like good sushi a bit out of reach, and lobster rolls?  Well, let’s just say I don’t eat a lot of lobster rolls. As amazing as they are, there is something about spending $15-29 for a sandwich whose only effect on your appetite is to make you want another one as soon as you finish the first. So, when the Lobsta Truck launched a few months ago, serving up $12 lobster rolls, I had mixed emotions.

Emotion #1. Screw that.  I don’t care if they’re serving foie gras topped with caviar pearls individually wrapped in gold leaf.  Lunch from a food truck should never cost more than $10.  Cheapness is half the reason people love street food.

Emotion #2. $12 is actually not bad for a lobster roll.  I do love lobster rolls.  If I pay the extra $2 from change that’s scattered around my house, then that count as a $10 Midtown Lunch right?

I suppose I could try it just this once…

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Best L.A. Sandwiches Under $6

Milanesa Cemita. Photo courtesy of Katie Robbins/Serious Eats

I still haven’t made it through L.A. Magazine’s sandwich list from last year, and here comes some more…  last week Serious Eats posted this great list of 14 sandwiches under $6.  Some are as far west as San Gabriel, and one is in Van Nuys- but there are a bunch right in my lunch’ing wheelhouse (the area between Downtown L.A. and Santa Monica). I’m already a big fan of the churrasco sandwich at Rincon Chileno, and the beef dip at Philippe’s.  But how did I miss the lebni at Falafel Arax!  Also need to try the wada pav at India Sweets and Spices, the basturma from Sahag’s, and the tuna from Larchmont Wine.  But the sandwich that has now vaulted to the top of my wishlist is the milanesa cemita from Angelica’s Cemita Truck on Venice in Culver City. Hot damn that looks good!

Check out the whole list here>>

Lunch Links (The “Ultimate Roast Chicken Battle” Edition)

Photo courtesy of Exile Kiss

  • KTOWN Pollo ala Brasa makes the best under $10 roast chx in L.A. [Exile Kiss]
  • COFFEE A map of the best coffee spots in Los Angeles [Squid Ink]
  • CULVER/PALMS Torrance quality ramen is coming to Washington! [FeastNY]
  • CULVER/PALMS Kebab Grill is now open on Venice [Grub Street]
  • DTLA I’m suddenly in the mood for some Salvadorean food! [LATimes]
  • MID CITY Don’t forget to ask for hot sauce at Flavor’s of Belize [Squid Ink]
  • SAMO A new Tender Greens will open in May with seafood specials [Eater]
  • WEST LA The paratha alone at India Sweet House makes a great lunch [Eater]
  • MOBILE A liege waffle truck is opening today [Eater]
  • EVENTS Evan Kleiman is holding a Global Street Food panel on May 1st [KCRW]

Zam Zam Market is Like a Biryani & Tandoori Halfway House


Ever since moving to Culver City a year ago, I’ve been working my way up the South Asian food totem pole.  I started at India Sweets and Spices, which I thought was pretty amazing- that is until I tried Samosa House and Samosa House East, which were even better.  I followed that up with a visit to Mayura’s all you can eat lunch buffet (for those who want meat) and ended up at what I think is the absolute best Indian food steam table on the westside: Bawarchi (and its infamous chef).  Regardless of which place is your personal favorite, one thing is now undeniable… the Culver City/Palms area has the best Indian food in all of Los Angeles.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, I found out about Zam Zam Market.

Located on Washington Blvd in Culver City, just East of where Washington splits into two different streets, it would be wrong to call Zam Zam a “hidden” gem.  I live right around the corner from the place and had seen it a ton of times.  The giant “HALAL” sign in the window was particularly intriguing to me (for reasons that should be obvious to anybody who has seen a street food cart in NYC), but the place is never open.  And even if it was, looking in the window didn’t exactly inspire confidence.  It’s not so much a market as just a giant space with a few half empty shelves, a makeshift cooking area behind a counter, half empty drink fridges in the back, and a few tables that always seem to have chairs stacked on top of them. I’d sooner believe it was a front for the Pakistani mafia, or a place for heroin addicts to crash before I would consider it a viable place to get lunch.  That is until Profiled Lunch’er Brandon mentioned that they made the best biryani, tandoori and kebabs “in existence.”  This can’t possibly be true.

And yet…

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