Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Recent Eats: Buns, Fries, Ice Cream and More
It's been a long time since this was a food blog, but I still get asked a lot about where I've been eating, so I thought I would do a brief, totally eclectic post which actually covered Sku's recent eats.
Republique, in the old Campanile space on La Brea is phenomenal. The food is served family style on communal tables. I went with a big group, and everything we had was very good; about half of it was mind blowing. And Jonathan Gold is absolutely right that these are the best fries in town and that the Bernaise sauce is nearly drinkable on its own. Other highlights were the eggs and uni on toast, duck confit, and for dessert, a chocolate cherry bread pudding. The cocktail menu was sadly unimpressive for a restaurant of this quality.
I was so impressed that I stop by for breakfast and they have what may be the best breakfast in mid-city. The breakfast is a much more casual affair. You order at the pastry counter and take a seat in the dining room. This place has wondrous eggs. The eggs on toast with asparagus and arugula was as simple as it sounds, but it was one of the best breakfast dishes anywhere. The scrambled eggs are so pillowy soft and creamy they are almost a custard, sliced asparagus spears were perfectly cooked with just the right crunch, add toast from their bread and the slight bitterness of arugula with sea salt and...its hard to describe how good this dish was. On top of that they had a perfectly executed kimchi fried rice. At the bakery items are more standard but you must try the canelles. The burnt sugar on the outside is crisp and sweet almost to the level of a creme brulee crust which gives way to a creamy, custardy center. I may have enjoyed the breakfast more than the dinner menu (though I would have liked a side of those fries)
The Bun Shop. This new Koreatown shop is one of those Asian fusion food trucks that opened a restaurant. This one is a great concept, Chinese style bao buns stuffed sandwich-style with all manner of fillings: pork belly, bulgogi, spam, chicken katsu and more. They are slider sized and come with an order of macaroni salad or marinated edamame. These things are great and highly addictive. They make a great snack anytime, but you could see how this place could become a major late night craving, though it closes at 10 pm. This place is all sorts of fun. Go there now!
Sweet Rose Creamery. This Brentwood ice cream shop now has a branch on Beverly across from Pan Pacific Park. As a huge ice cream fan, I'm always happy to see more great ice cream, and this is indeed great, with fresh ingredients and creative (though not insane) flavors. They have a standard menu with silky smooth salted caramel, strong coffee and other standard flavors and a changing list of seasonal offerings. The seasonal offerings are particularly good, utilizing fresh cherries, orange and other seasonal ingredients. This place immediately rockets to the top tier of LA ice cream; hell, it may be the best. They also have homemade sodas and toppings, but the ice cream is so damn good that I've never gotten around to them.
I've never had much of a wait at Sweet Rose despite the fact that people continue to line up around the block for the mediocre ice cream at Milk, just down the street. Just as well, hopefully those Milk drinkers won't find out that Sweet Rose puts their overly sweet concoctions to shame. They also make great coffee using Caffe Luxxe beans.
SnowLA. I'm not sure if snow ice has reached other parts of the country yet. I first had it in Hawaii a few years ago, but it's been in the San Gabriel Valley for a while and is starting to make in-roads in Koreatown. An ice cream/shave ice mash up, snow ice is made by placing a large block of ice cream in a shave ice-type machine; then toppings are added that would be typical for shave ice or frozen yogurt. The thin, ribbon-like shaved ice cream at Snow LA is airy and light and melts in your mouth. I particularly like it topped with condensed milk and dulce de leche as well as "popping boba" that burst with mango, yogurt or strawberry flavor when you bite into them. The snow ice at SnowLA on Sixth Street is the best I've had with a really fine texture and good toppings.
Isaan Station. Great Thai comes to Koreatown. Alright, we're not that far from Thai Town, but still, it's rare for good Thai to be available south of Santa Monica Boulevard. Issan Station, on Western at First (just down from the Bun Shop) brings some T-Town to K-Town with its classic Thai street food. Really great sour sausage, loads of larps and papya salads as well as soups and noodles. This will definitely become a regular spot for me.
The Oinkster. The Oinkster, the fast-casual-gourmet-hipster joint in Eagle Rock recently opened a Hollywood branch. Despite all of the praise heaped on the Eagle Rock joint, I never went because I consider Eagle Rock to be nearly unreachable by major freeways and boulevards, and for some reason, it seems to take me longer to get there than to Monterey Park. So I was excited to finally get to try Oinkster, where everything except the beer is homemade. My favorite here was probably the pulled pork sandwich, which had a nice Carolina style vinegar based BBQ sauce. The burgers were nicely flavored if over cooked. The pastrami, which is house cured, was quite good, though more in the style of The Hat (thin cut, greasy, fast food stand style) than Langer's (thick cut, juicy, deli style). The homemade condiments were very good, particularly the chipotle ketchup (and I seldom like homemade ketchup), but the fries and onion rings were lackluster. When you call your fries Belgian, you have a lot to live up to, and these were not crispy enough and needed salt. The breaded-style onion rings were similarly bland. All in all, pretty good food, though expensive (but that goes with the category). A good option for that area of Hollywood.