I have written a few posts about my experiences in San Francisco, haven’t I? It dawned on me over the weekend that I have not done the same for Los Angeles, apart from that one post I have written about Santa Monica quite a while ago. Okay… I am going to rectify this now by writing a series of posts about my experiences in LA…
As with San Francisco, I am going to start off Los Angeles with food, because… everybody loves food, right? The stuff you see here, happened over two trips that I have had in LA. But before I begin, some disclaimers first:
- I don’t care what you think about my photos, but I think my photos on LA food sucks. If there is one thing I think LA restaurants have in common, it is that they are mostly dimly lit and not good for photography. Hence some of the photos you see here are dark and blurry.
- This is not a foodie guide to LA. This is my food experiences in LA. For all I know, I might not even be having anything that is worth being considered great by the locals. So please read this as an entertaining piece rather than as a respectable foodie guide.
If we have an accord on these two points, let’s begin.
My favorite LA food… sort of
This might come as a surprise to all of you, but I think food in LA sucks. I mean, my food experiences in LA sucks. I guess it is more because I had no one to bring me around to get good food. The restaurants that I went to were all random selections, and the food were all horrible. In fact, the best food that I tasted in LA was in McDonald’s in the airport.
Seriously, these chicken strips were damn good. Look at them, they were made of real chicken breast meat rather than processed meat. McDonald’s in LA is much better than McDonald’s in Malaysia by a million miles, I have to say.
The second best food? a chocolate coated Krispy Kreme doughnut and a cup of Starbucks caramel latte. Got these from the hotel lobby that I was staying in as breakfast.
It is so disappointing, right? I hope you’re disappointed having read thus far. Heck, I myself am disappointed with what I have written thus far.
Except… I kid. I kid. I’m just kidding. I’m trying to pull a prank on you guys, yet again. These are most definitely NOT my most favorite food in LA. They were just filler meals for me on instances where I have no other choices available.
Okay, okay, let’s get serious from now on… 😀 😀 😀
But seriously, those McD chicken strips were really something compared to Mc-f**kin-Nuggets over here…
Casa Gamino, near LAX
In San Francisco, we stayed in the Fisherman’s Wharf. It was like, the heart of all tourist actions. So it was easy to find food. But when I was in Los Angeles, we stayed in hotels near the airport. What this means is that we were nowhere near the city center.
On my first visit, we arrived late in the evening, and we didn’t know the area at all. So we asked the hotel’s concierge for recommendations on places where we can get dinner. We were given a leaflet with a list of all restaurants within a two miles radius of the hotel. The concierge also said that we could get a free lift to any of those restaurants using the hotel shuttle, courtesy of being the hotel’s guests.
So we got onto one of the shuttles waiting outside the hotel, and pointed to the driver a Mexican restaurant. He nodded, and we soon left the hotel’s premises. He asked us if we were visiting LA for the first time, and after we said yes, he said to us: “That Mexican restaurant no good. You want try Mexican food? I know a place, very good Mexican food, authentic home cooking!”
We were intrigued, so we agreed to his suggestion without any suspicion. And that was how we got ourselves to this Mexican restaurant called Casa Gamino.
To be honest, the restaurant looked pretty promising from the outside, and we were ushered in by a friendly Mexican woman. We were feeling pretty good about this restaurant.
And then as we were seated, we saw our wonderful driver approach the counter. And we saw the cashier handed him some cash. And then we said to ourselves “FUCK!”, because we now knew we were brought here for a commission. In other words, we were pwned by the driver. Damn!!
Our mood basically plummeted. If this is a restaurant that tips a driver for bringing customers in, surely it is not as good as the driver claimed? It may even suck! To make matters worse, the menu was 100% Spanish words and 0% English, so we had to rely on our server’s recommendations. We placed our orders anyway, as we were too tired to leave and too hungry to go look for other restaurants.
I don’t really remember the name of the dishes, nor do I remember the prices. If any of you Mexican food experts recognize the dishes below, do inform me and I will put those names in…
To be frank, the food actually looked pretty good. But it was all looks. The taste was crap. To be honest, there wasn’t much taste to begin with anyway. The soup was bland, the rice was very dry, the chicken was bland too, and the cheese was… too much.
The driver said this place serves authentic home cooking Mexican food. That either means Mexican home cooking is a joke, or the driver is a bloody liar. Seeing how he pocketed a commission from the restaurant, I am 99.99% certain it is the latter.
No, we did NOT finish our food. And we did NOT leave a tip. It was THAT bad.
Panda Inn, Universal City
You know, in the US, there is a Chinese fast food chain called Panda Express. This Panda Express mainly serves food much like our zhap fan (mixed rice) stalls. Panda Inn… is the atas (high end) sibling of Panda Express, run by the same company.
I went to the Panda Inn restaurant in Universal City (where Universal Studio is located in), twice. This was because both times I came to Universal City, it was lunch time, and both times I came with rice loving colleagues. So when we see a restaurant that serves rice, naturally we would have to go in.
Since this is a high end Chinese restaurant, we get to order a la carte dishes, much like a Chinese restaurant in Malaysia or anywhere in the world for that matter. The food here doesn’t taste much like what we get in Malaysia. I would think they are closer to Hong Kong style cuisine. They are pretty good though, although sometimes a bit too oily to my liking.
And, hey… now that I think about it, while Panda Express has grown to become a US nationwide food chain, Panda Inn exists exclusively in California. So, by dining here, I guess I am eating local food! Yay!
Zengo, Santa Monica Place
When we were hanging out in Santa Monica, we saw this restaurant called Zengo in the mall, Santa Monica Place. From the outside, it said it is an Asian fusion restaurant. It looked like an expensive place, and we had some food allowances left, so we went in for dinner.
To our chagrin, a quick glance at the menu told us that this Asian fusion restaurant is Asian-Latin fusion, and it seemed more Latin than Asian. Much much more… I mean, heck, look at the menu, look for the chef’s name. Darn!
And it really was a very expensive fine dining restaurant. We ordered two dishes. I don’t remember their names too.
I agree, the dishes actually looked fantastic! Except, the photos are close up shots. The plates were actually the size of sushi plates. That’s how small they were. And, I don’t remember the exact prices, but I do remember each of these dishes were over US$ 20.
Our waitress told us that these dishes were all the chef’s special creations. He tried to mix Asian and Latin tastes together to create all these delicious dishes. If you ask me, I guess maybe I should stick to commoner food. I guess fine dining is really an acquired taste, and I have not acquired that taste. I finished all the food here though. Not because I loved them (I thought both these dishes tasted weird), but because they were so expensive!
And we had to go to Denny’s for supper after this meal. Yes, I have also been to Denny’s in LA. And if Anna reads this post and specifically this paragraph about me going to Denny’s in her hometown, I think she will be so pissed mad at me!
I said earlier in the post that I had no one to bring me around to sample yummy food, didn’t I? Well, that was a prank too. I did have a friend in LA. She is an Indonesian who used to study in Malaysia, and we went to the same high school. She then went to college in the US, and when I visited LA for the first time, she was living somewhere about an hour’s drive away.
So… this friend of mine, Sally, came to look for me in my hotel, and brought me out for dinner. She also brought a friend along. She told me her friend is very pretty, so it got me pretty excited. When we finally met, I saw that her friend, Yuli, was really very pretty. Unfortunately (for me), she already had a boyfriend, so…
Anyway, so… Sally brought me and a colleague of mine to this Indonesian cafe called Simpang Asia. I have absolutely no idea in which part of LA is this place located in. I basically just got into the car and let her drive me to wherever she wanted to. My hotel was near the airport, I recall going through a six-lane expressway for a bit, got caught in LA traffic jam for a bit, and then we arrived. Anyway, here’s the address if you really want to know.
According to the ladies, this place serves very authentic Indonesian food. All the Indonesian students in the area will come here. Back then, I knew absolutely nothing about Indonesian cuisine. Actually I still don’t know much today. So I basically just let Sally and Yuli do the ordering,
This ayam penyet was special to me. In Malaysia, we usually see ayam penyet served dry, without any gravy on top, isn’t it?
I know, Penangites who see this laksa will scorn and curse. To them, I say, “Oh shaddup! Penang laksa is not the only laksa in the world!“. This is Indonesian laksa, which is some sort of a mild curry. It was pretty good.
I was intrigued with this Coto Makassar. I knew Makassar is a place in Sulawesi island, so I asked Sally what Coto means. She refused to tell me and asked me to just enjoy the soup. And it was a delicious soup, very flavorful. I thought the meat was pork, as they tasted quite like pork.
When I got back to the hotel later in the day, I fired up my laptop and searched for this dish name. It showed up in Wikipedia (Indonesia) with this description: Makanan ini terbuat dari daging dan jeroan sapi (This food is made of sapi meat and innards). But what the heck is sapi? So I searched for the word sapi, and this picture came up:
So.. this is sapi. Daging dan jeroan sapi. Cow meat and innards soup… But, hey… I do eat beef in the US, so I guess it is fine…
Hodori, Koreatown LA
We were tucking away happily in the Indonesian cafe, with those dishes and rice. The food were pretty good there. Then as we were leaving. Sally said: “Okay, now let’s go for dinner.”
I stared at her, dumbstrucked, and asked: “Dinner? What the hell did we just have then?”
In which she replied: “What? That was afternoon tea time snack! Don’t tell me you’re full already? You’re so fat now, you can eat more, right??”
No, she was mistaken. No, I can’t eat more. No… not really. But she didn’t care anyway. So we got into her car again, and she drove off again. It was a short drive and we arrived at Koreatown LA, and the ladies brought us to this Korean restaurant, Hodori.
According to the ladies, this was the most popular Korean restaurant in LA. Many Koreans come here for their meals.
Sally left Malaysia shortly after we finished high school, which was to say, when we met, it has been 8 years since she was last in Malaysia. She was surprised and slightly disappointed when I told her that we do have Korean restaurants in Malaysia too.
Anyway, here, I was tricked by the ladies again. You see, we were served iced water in bowls.
This was new to me. I always thought drinking water is always served in cups or glasses. So I asked the ladies what this iced water is for? And you know what they told me? They told me it was for us to wash our hands!
And you know what I did? I believed them, and rinsed my hand in that water! Of course, they waited patiently for me to do just that, and then they drank the water from their bowls after my hand was well and truly wet, and I realized I was tricked! And I had to request another bowl of water from the waitress, rather embarrassingly. >.<
The ladies ordered for us again, and soon the food arrived. To be honest, I was very full from the Indonesian meal. But it was rude if we do not eat, right? So we tucked in anyway. To make matters worse, the ladies barely touched the food. It was mostly us two guys eating.
I have to say, this was the first time I had samgyetang (Korean ginseng chicken soup). And I loved it. I loved this soup so much that since then, I have ordered this soup a lot when I go to Korean restaurants after I came back to Malaysia.
But, the thing with this soup is, there was an entire chicken in the soup, and there were glutinous rice stuffed inside the chicken. In other words, this was a killer dish that made eating buffet seems like child’s play to me. Halfway through this soup, I was well and truly down.
I don’t remember what this fish dish is called. Heck, I don’t even remember much of anything. I was so full that I could barely move! You see how this last photo is so blurry? It was because my hand was shaking when I took this picture.
We were dropped back at our hotel after dinner. I remember I sort of stumbled my way into the car, and out of the car at the hotel. It was very nice though, getting to meet a friend that I have not seen for 8 years. It was also very nice to be introduced to a pretty girl, though she had a boyfriend and did not even want to add me in Facebook. >.<
And… I have come to an end of my LA food adventures. Wow… I’ve written quite a lot, haven’t I? It has been quite a while since I last wrote this much for a blog post. I hope you don’t get bored and faint halfway through reading…