Monday, April 13, 2009

Recession-proof Burgers @ Mom's Burgers (Compton)

Who says recession affect every area equally? Apparently not affected at all in the city of Compton.

Several months ago, several bloggers mentioned the best place to grab a ghetto burger would be in Compton due to the low seedy looks of the neighborhood. I just can't seemed to fathom on how or why the city continue to get a bad rap. I understood Compton had high crime rates and corruptions in the city hall during the Omar Bradley days. The 60's Watts and 90's LA riots have also contributed to make some conditions worse. However given that those dark days were long gone and the city have been revamping since then, I don't see how the tag of "ghetto" apply to the New Compton.

Now adding tacos to the burgers?

For a piece of mind, the neighborhood was actually pretty safe during day time and located across the street from Compton High School. Some of the new redevelopment townhouses are built in a unincorporated city of Rancho Dominguez, which shares the same zip code with the city of Compton. There were some serious wattage of bling on the tires that displayed many of the customized chrome rims driving around the city that day as they rolled into the parking lot of Mom's Burgers.

Mom's Burgers have been operated for over three decades founded by Joyce "Mom" McLaurin, who like a few others started a mom and pop burger joints around the surrounding neighborhoods. This place is a very low maintenance burger shack that had two outdoor benches and a half dozen stools around the counters.

I wanted to ordered the big Colossal burger that they had listed in the menu, but they ran out of the pastrami that day. The guy behind the big shatterproof window smoothly talked me into ordered the Mom's Bacon burger, which is almost essentially like Colossal burger, but minus the pastrami and extra patty.

Mom's Bacon Burger Combo ($6.30)

I have to admit, I have slowed down on ordering these massive patties because they tend to not cook very well because of the lack of seasoning in a big burger patty and also undercook/overcook a patty because of its size. I didn't have to worry too much of that as I thought the patty was excellent. With or without that bacon, I thought the burger was juicy and a messy debacle that was easily ignored because you would inhale that in less than 5 minutes.

The burger combo comes with a side of fries and a can of soda of your choice. A major brownie point for this place: Pepsi is the prefer choice!

The prefer choice of soda drink at Mom's Burgers

The next two choices are very much the epitome of what a ghetto burger is all about these days: adding egg to the patty. I guess I'm not used to it or ever really experience it other than on a sausage link sandwiches, but it was something I mostly definitely needed to add.

I ordered the popular Chronic burger which was essentially a bacon burger with an addition of an egg on top of it. So essentially, for about 76 cents more, you would get the same Mom's Burger with an added egg which was a much better selection. That was also another burger that didn't take long to wolf down.

Junior Chronic Burger Combo ($7.06)

The hot link sandwich didn't have an egg, so I added on with no fuss at all. That was one great thing about this place was that even though they didn't have much selections, but you can customized it with any added ingredients to your likings as if you were at one of The Counter franchise burger joint.

The burgers and sandwiches are on the gourmet burgers price range you normally would find at Red Devils, Blue Dahalia, or at Pete's. You won't find Mom's Burgers comparable to your average local burger joint and definitely better than the surrounding burger shacks like Fresh and Meaty or Three Bears.

Hot Link Sandwich ($2.71) + Egg ($0.54)

The big question is whether or not it's worth driving to a remote place just for a simple burger? The truth is that the burger is pretty good, but driving all the way there would required you to travel to another place and used this burger shack as a pit stop for your burger munching. Driving it for just the burger would not be necessary.

Considering the prices that was charged, I'm just shock that the burgers are recession proof. Tam's burgers are 99 cents each and In-N-Out burgers are cheaper, but for the price and value, it was worth the order.

Would this place's serving qualify as a ghetto burger? The city of Compton wants to let others know that the city is turning a new leaf and wants the label of ghetto to be repeal.

Mom's Burgers
336 W Alondra Blvd
Compton, CA 90220
(310) 632-6622


Mom's Burgers on Urbanspoon

Mom's Burger in Los Angeles

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

2 Year Anniversary Special @ Marché Moderne (Costa Mesa)

MARCHÉ MODERNE, the contemporary French Bistro (located in a shopping plaza that I couldn't afford to shop - South Coast Plaza) are celebrating their 2nd year anniversary. The chef and owners of the restaurant Amelia and Florent Marneau decided again to have another special four courses menu to take part for the celebration of their anniversary. Due to their success of last year's anniversary special, they decided to offer this menu not for one night, but for two nights.

They got the coveted and hard to earn three stars from LA Times critic S. Irene Virbila: Read here

Date: April 28 and April 29

Marché Moderne’s 2nd Anniversary Menu

Amuse Bouche

Yakitori of lobster and sweet bread, baby shiitake, yuzu and sake dipping sauce

NV Brut Louis De Sacy “Tradition”


McGrath Farms, Coastal Organic Farms, Jaime Farms, Weiser Farms, Green Farms
Vegetables simply roasted, sauce mousseline “au goût de Béarnaise”

Rosé, Chateau Saint Martin, Cotes de Provence


Butter roasted filet of Dover Sole, wild ramps,

brown butter spring carrot mousseline, artichoke chips

Pouilly Fuissé, Domaine De Fussiacus, Macon

La Ferme

Wood burning roasted Prime Ribeye cap and Ribeye mignon,

Braised short ribs wood burning roasted
“asperge blanche et vertes” jus de Porto, crème de foie gras

2004 Chateau Trianon Grand cru, Saint-Emilion


Raspberry-mascarpone soufflé tarte,

pistachio crème brûlée, Chambord ice cream

$75 per person food only
$35 additional for wine pairing by “Fernand”

No substitutions, please

Reservations: 714-434-7900

Seating is limited and reservations are required

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Long "Stretch" @ Pink's Hot Dogs (Los Angeles)

Epically I always thought it was awesome to show some of your out of town guest/family members/friends around all parts of Los Angeles to let them get a grasp of all the glory what L.A. has to offer. Plenty of times it disintegrated into the few usual touristy trap places like Disneyland, Hollywood area (where they can see that big sign), Universal Studio, and get this: #1 choice of out of town tourists destination is..... the outlet malls to get cheap discounted name brands.

When it comes to food, they don't really want comfort food. Shoot, they can get the real authentic dish once they get home. So which food or type of food do people conjure up when they think of L.A.? Yup, so far by a wide margin in an unofficial Pepsi Monster's poll from his loved ones out of town, it is Pink's Hot Dogs.

It's funny because I don't associate cheesesteaks to Philadelphia or clam chowders to Boston, but apparently people thinks Angelinos eat hot dogs. Pink is the choice for that place to visit when out of towners want hot dogs to taste. Damn those visitor's guides and travel books!

Usually, I am very persistent in showing other L.A.'s famous eateries or convince someone else to endure this pain. The pain I'm talking about is the tedious long wait just to get a hot dog in a landmark place that has opened since 1939. Trust me, I'm not that impressed when the word "institution" or "landmark" get thrown around. Just read my Apple Pan review.

Sure enough, when we rolled in the line was stretch around a furniture store and almost to the parking lot next door. I slightly peeked at the front line and hoping it was going to be fast with multiple cashiers. Guess what? They still have one cashier system with one employee taking one order at a time in a rotation. Knowing the case, standing in line around the corner of the furniture store, I calculated it'll be more than 40 minutes of wait time.

20 minutes later...

I figured I had nothing to lose at this point. The above photo was taken 20 minutes after the initial wait. At the time, we were deciding if what types of chili hot dogs we like. I have noticed they dedicated a few hot dogs to celebrities or well known figure heads like our Mayor of L.A. I think it's part of their regular orders, but they added in some other obscure ingredient and dedicated the chili dog to the few lucky famous figures such as our Mayor.

With my initial forecast of 40 minutes being incorrectly predicted, I had finally got inside of the canopy and away from the searing hot sun. That wait took about 50 minutes to endure and with the ordering station not far from the reach as I'm turning around the corner.

...50 minutes later

Since I stuck this long, I think I can see the promised land (ordering station). I just never realized that the hot dog stand from the Great Depression can expand into a global business empire where Huffy brand hot dogs with unique casing on the outside makes it easier for the dog to snap when you bite into them.

They don't take phone orders (or I would have gladly faxed it in), but on their website they promised speedy service. Yes, that's the sound of laughter in my head as I now waited in excess of over one hour to order any food.

More signage of other dogs that named after famous celebs or "figures"

When I finally did reached my destination (the ordering station), I quickly ratted it off a New York Dog with Spicy Onions, 10" Stretch Dog, and a Poli Bacon Burrito Dog. With a few orders of drinks. All that for an approximately 1 hour and 12 minutes.

Before anyone thinks I'm sourly complaining, other famous celebrities don't get special treatment to cut lines either. I have heard stories where famous celebs would sent out their newly hired Personal assistants to get some of these dogs. One of the famous test was that the PAs would need to get these dogs within less than half of a hour back to their boss, in order to keep their jobs.

True story, I have seen some desperate errand boys bribing the people in front of the line to add their orders.

...finally! They are making my dogs!

The Tray (ps the Coke can is not mine!)

Some interesting observations when the tray of dogs are completed. The hot dogs are long and skinny. The chili was very comforting and not too heavy. Spicy red onions did have some kick to the flavor, but it wasn't too overpowering to ruin the flavor the dog. One good thing about the hot dog was that it has a natural casing and a good meat in the ingredients.

10" Stretch Chili Dog ($3.55)

New York Dog with Red Spicy Onions ($3.65)

The interesting thing about the Poli Bacon Burrito Dog (Polish sausage with bacon) was that the all beef dog was wrapped like a burrito. Are they trying to play up the cultural reference to the city? Maybe. Just like adding burgers in their menu, I do think Pink is trying to re-invent themselves and catching up with some of the changes in today's times.

Poli Bacon Burrito Dog ($5.60)

For over an hour of wait in a ridiculous long line, I can honestly say that I will never want to endure that kind of wait again. As in for the hot dog, it was very satisfactory. Both of the standard long dogs like the 10" stretch and the New York Dogs had always been my favorite whenever I stopped by. Too bad I didn't have the forsight to order more than just one dog for myself, but I can take one thing in comfort when we started to leave the place.

Looking at the long line that never get shorter for the people that is waiting to order. It didn't bring joy to my eyes, but at least I know I'm not the only one that need to suffer this fate. Everyone needs to share the pain equally!

The line was still a long stretch after the visit

Pink's Hot Dogs
709 N La Brea Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 931-4223


Pink's on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 3, 2009

Surviving the Stare Down @ Sushi Zo (West L.A.)

One of my friend have told me that I need to visit Sushi Zo before I make a visit to Urasawa. He had told me stories about unfair comparisons being made afterward for any place that have to follow Urasawa. So my friend had kindly made the suggestions that I need to visit Sushi Zo before Urasawa so that I won't give unfair and unrealistic expectations for Sushi Zo. In case the Big U lives up to the awesome expectations, it would be easy for every other sushi joints to pale in comparisons.

A little history and some footnotes about Sushi Zo before you decide to come here. On a last minute lunch meeting cancellation, I have decided to come here on a lazy Friday afternoon. Supposedly, if you are rolling in on by yourself and needed to be seated at a counter, you will be obligated to dine at an Omakase pricing set by the chef where dishes are ordered by the chef and you will not be allow to order anything from the a la carte menu. According to kevinEats, he heard that only Friday and Saturday will be accessed with Omakase (as in Chef's choosing the dishes in the terms of "trust us") for every diner.

Omakase can be a crap shoot because A) you don't know what the Chef have in store for you when he presents the dishes. B)The Chef will ask you ahead of time on what dishes you won't eat, however you cannot turn down a dish if you don't like the look of it. C)The cost is undetermined ahead of time. You can tell the chef when you want to stop eating, but there is no indication in that the price is strictly based on the numbers of dishes. The price is variable in either the amount of dishes you had or the type of the dishes you had, but the algorithm for any omakase is based on the price set by the restaurant with no real equations.

The man of the hour (or 30 minutes for my case) is chef Keizo. He is either often referred as the Sushi Nazi in the form of the famed chef Nozawa or the "Iron Chef" because of his uncanny resemblance to a younger version of Masaharu Morimoto.

There are some rules you will need to abide by before you they will even begin to service you. One is that the hostess/server will give you a long lecture about this place being a true sushi place where they don't do handrolls, California Rolls, or any absurd special request rolls. Once I agreed, I noticed a few more rules will need to adhere before hand. The two most important rules are that I can't used the soy sauce liberally as I have in the past. In fact, chef Keizo Seki will briefly tell me on how to eat the sushi either in "no soy sauce" or "little soy sauce".

The other rule is that you cannot mixed wasbi on to the soy sauce as they would not provide you with one. The chef will place the wasabi underneath the raw fish himself before serving to you. You cannot remove the wasabi and will have eat the fish as it was intended. There is also an unwritten rule where you have to eat the sushi within 5 seconds after he served it to you. The intention was that you are suppose to savor the fish as it was freshly serve to you and not let it sit too long. As Oshii Eats (no relation to kevinEats) found out, chef Keizo will admonished you about letting the sushi lingered on too long without being eaten.

Let me first off by saying that I was a bit intimidated by chef Keizo Seki at first because he does not look straight in my eyes and the stare down can be a little bit off putting. I was a little bit buzzed by the hot sake and the picture was snapped right away without much focusing. So bare with me on those pictures.

Here are the run downs of the items I have ordered before quitting the Omakase after #17.

  1. Kumamoto Kaki/Oyster (picture not taken) - I have heard it's the standard for him to serve us this fresh oyster first as he wants to test how willing your palate is. It's delicious and I wish took a pic of it. Don't worry, I got braver after this.
  2. Baby Squid - I like the chewy little squid as it was beautifully presented in this nice little dish
  3. Awabi/Baby Abalone - This one was a danger to me before it ends because the abalone is a tougher chew and was the biggest piece in the whole repartee. If you can finish this big cut of abalone, you are on your way to a fantastic meal rest of the way. I have a good feeling that this will be an appetite killer or speed bump.
  4. Ika/Squid Noodle with Uni/Sea Urchin - It was very subtle and an easy dish to eat with a touch of sea urchin with the squid noodle. Try to imagine eating slices of oyster and you get the same feeling of what's it like in eating this dish.
  5. Hirame/Halibut - One of my favorite dish of the night. Love the freshness that was served as my blurry pic can attest on how excited I was in wanting to eat the halibut.
  6. Tai/Red Snapper - another well cut standard bearer I come to enjoy. The red snapper and yellowtail are favorites in any sushi lineup. The red snappers are very fresh today.
  7. Yellowtail - This was a solid standard bearer of all sushi. Never really can disappoint unless it's a bad cut of fish.
  8. Hotate/Scallop - I thought I would like the scallop, but it didn't agreed with me as much. Honestly, I think the sake didn't go very well with it. This is one time I wish someone was with me to tell me to slow down with the drinks.
  9. Aji/Spanish Mackerel - Luckily the next few dishes are spot on and this Aji melted in my mouth.
  10. Toro/Fatty Tuna -Oh wow, the fatty toro explodes in my mouth. I loved the fattiness of the tuna which the toro is now winning me over besides being the part of the most expensive cut of the fish. Now I can see why. Very delicious.
  11. Uni/Sea Urchin -Big chunk of uni will always test me out, but I think I'm getting to appreciate this popular item.
  12. Madai/Red Snapper -No Soy sauce on this bad boy as it already put some sauce on top. Another standard bearer that passed the test.
  13. Aoyagi/Orange Clam - This one will be a tough chew. I think most people would have ended right here because of the toughness of this item. Luckily I found the strength to move forward
  14. Ha-Gatsuo/Skipjack Tuna - I attempted to put soy sauce before the Chef quickly told me "no soy sauce" on this one. Frankly I don't think it needed that either, but it was funny watching him in horror when I tried to dipped in the soy sauce.
  15. Kanpachi/Amberjack - Just like the yellowtail, it's another standard bearer for sushi. The sauce on the fish was plentiful as chef Keizo sternly asked me not to put soy sauce.
  16. Butterfish with Miso - My FAVORITE dish of the day. I think the sauce played beautifully on this tender raw fish. If I can this fish everyday, I would be very happy.
  17. Engawa/Halibut Fin - This is the dish where I needed to end the journey. I think Aoyagi was still sitting rough in my belly, but at least I got to taste the butterfish and kanpachi.

Overall, my service was stellar. Yes, it's coming from the same server who probably lectured to every patrons about sushi. It can be considered rude, but I think she is going through the same mechanism to remind everyone about the place (and I also think she is taking the hit for the chef as he might not want to lecture about sushi).

Chef Keizo was really a nice guy even with the rough posture and the stare-down without looking at you at any time. Frankly, a man with so little words that would rather concentrate on providing beautifully crafted dishes that not only looked good, but tasted delicious as well, should be commended rather than misunderstood. He is always slicing and preparing the dishes as he is not in the mood for idle chit chat. Shy man perhaps? That's the theory that is floating out there about Chef Keizo.

For my lunch, it was about $72 for the Omakase and $15 for a hot sake that really put me on tailspin. I'm glad I came here before my big expenditure on Urasawa because I don't know if I really can appreciate this place on its own. I actually started formulating a review before the big U and found it surprisingly that this place still withstood in face of the formidable Urasawa as a top sushi place in Los Angeles.

Go here on a lazy after noon at lunch before 1:30pm and you will get an undivided attention like no others. Make sure you sit on the counter in front of chef Keizo as that is the best seat in the house.

Sushi Zo
9824 National Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90034
(310) 842-3977


Sushi Zo on Urbanspoon