Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hunan Chili King

Los Angeles magazine listed this place as #2 on the Top 10 Chinese restaurants list. With so many places to choose from in SGV, that's quite a statement. I was with my parents and my mom is the Simon Cowell of Chinese restaurant reviewers. But to her defense, shes an amazing cook and has great taste.

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We arrived on a Saturday at about noon, there were plenty of tables available. As we were seated, a plate of boiled peanuts and spicy pickled daikon was placed at our table. If this dish was a barometer of the heat level we were to expect, our mouths were in for a challenge.

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A great thing about this place is the menu, it has pictures and English!! Yes English! But with my parents there that didn't matter, for future tho, it's going to be importante.

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We ordered Cumin Lamb, Sauteed Frog, Spicy Chicken, some type of fried fish and a sauteed bamboo like vegetable. See even with a English menu, I couldn't figure out half of the dishes we ate. The frog dish tasted a lot like the chicken dish, surprise, surprise. Both were good, but trying to eat meat the with all little bones was challenging. The cumin lamb dish was my favorite, subtle cumin flavor, tender thinly sliced lamb with a ton of cilantro, chilis and scallions.

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The bamboo dish was a nice contrast from all of the oily spicy dishes. The fried fish dish would have been good, but they were over cooked, bordering burned. The prices of the dishes were on the high side, but as far as authentic Szechuan cuisine goes, Hunan Chili King has that covered. The spice level is high and the service is decent.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Son of a Gun

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Delicious, simple, creative and fun. This is how I would describe the food and atmosphere of this place. The first thing I would recommend is sitting at the communal table. Twenty two seats available for walk-ins only. So be patient, go for a walk and wait for some seats to open.

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We were seated at the end of the table, it was crowded but the energy was contagious. As we reviewed the menu, we could see all of the other dishes being ordered by our table mates. We started our meal with the shrimp toast sandwich and mussels. Both were delicious, the mussels were removed from their shells and submerged in the tarragon, fennel and pernod sauce. This was the best mussel dish I had in a long time. The shrimp toast sandwich was spicy, rich and full of flavor. The bread was fried in butter.

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For the next round we needed something to break-up the richness of the first two dishes. We ordered the hiramasa and the fried chicken sandwich. The hiramasa was fresh and light, very subtle in flavors. The fried chicken sandwich has changed my impression of every chicken sandwich I have ever eaten and will ever eat. The combination of the spicy slaw, rooster aioli, buttery toasted brioche and the most tender, juicy and crispy chicken, was truly amazing.

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I didn't know if I should eat anything else after that sandwich, I thought I should end the meal on a high note. But since we had split all of the items between three people, I was still hungry.

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So for our final round we ordered the brandade with soft egg. And just when I thought the fried chicken sandwich was unbeatable, in comes the brandade. Another amazing dish, simple, luscious and rich.

Cannot wait for my next visit to this place.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


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In my attempt to visit the top ramen restaurants in Los Angeles, I had high expectations for Daikokuya. It was a Saturday afternoon and the crowd outside was dense. We were told the wait would be about 45 mins. An hour later, we were seated.

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My friend brought a bottle of Riesling and the restaurant did not have a problem with that. But they didn't have wine glasses either. I guess that should have been expected. We ordered teriyaki chicken, gyoza, and pickled vegetables to start. For my entree I had the Daikokuya Ramen combination with the Unagi Bowl.

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All of the starters were delicious, nothing amazing but very good. The ramen on the other hand, was spectacular. The noodles were perfectly cooked and had nice chew. The pork was tender and unctuous and the broth was savory and rich. Each of the accompaniments green onions, marinated boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and sesame seeds added either texture or another dimension of flavor.

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Let's not forget about the Unagi bowl. The fatty eel with the Kabayaki Sauce was delicious served on top of rice. I understand why I waited an hour and why Daikokuya has always been mentioned as one of the best ramen restaurants in LA. Can't wait til next time.