Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Best Discovery on a Return Visit at Pikunico










I am always bad with direction. This is something I can't denied. 

In any other times, my sense of navigation with my eyes and nose would not let me down. Somehow I didn't factored in that certain parts of downtown LA does not have a through street. I blamed that on the lousy google map app on my iPhone.

Front

I was in a rush one night to get to this mini style cafe on one of the "newest" and "happening" plaza in southern California. There seemed to be a grass root campaign in opening up a trendy hub center for dining and shopping center that can generate buzz for the youngsters here. Yup folks, the mall is the blase of the 80s and we're living in the new Millennium.

In what was a overlooked decision on my research, I also didn't know that the hub center also holds a hip market/food stalls gathering where those Millennial would congregate every Sunday. That plaza is fabulous called ROW DTLA, a terminal market back in the old days with wholesale factory warehouses in walking distance close to each other. The Manufactory building is now a converted restaurant row while other parts of the factory warehouses become boutique stores, gentrified coffee houses and remodeled restaurants.

The wholesale farm market is now a weekly Sunday Foodies meet-up as new colorful, unique food are served on these food stalls.

So, what does it have to do with me getting lost? Well....google Map couldn't keep up the new happenings as the fences and walls are build up, while the neighboring warehouses bordered up the road with their mangy iron clad gates that used to connect to my destination.

Oh joy!

When I got there, I was assuming the place I wanted to visit would be closed up because I arrived a good 5 minutes after the reported closing time. To my astonishment, they pretty much welcomed me in on that frenzy Sunday. You can guessed I was in a much better mood to check out on parts of this cafe with picnic benches.

Untitled
Click Play to see the interior


Pikunico have a modern look of a chic style cafe that serves Japanese Fried Chicken. They have a long communal table that is affectionately known as "The Bench". What I craved the most was their talked about "Golden Chicken Sandwich". When I was in a disparaged mode of trying to get into ROW DTLA, all my thoughts was on that sandwich. It was the only thing that was keeping me from falling apart in getting around the dead end streets.

Golden Chicken Sandwich
Golden Chicken Sandwich

The lady that took my order was a cheery fella that was patient and more than happy to serve. She could have played it off as though they were closed. I probably would have been bummed, but I would have understand. To make one of their last order easier, I got the order of Chicken Sandwich and a mix tray of chicken as a takeout to go.

IMG_4197
Mix Chicken of Wing, Thigh, and Tenders with Origni Rice

Let me just say that after tasting all of the chicken, I was ecstatic. One, I was pleasantly surprised by the evenly distributed of the breading in the fried chicken. My sandwich itself has one of the most unique turmeric bun that is filled with watercress, jalapeno, and a lemon flavored aioli. The part that conquered me over was their miso jam that was smoldered over the chicken. This sandwich not only won me over, but more importantly it made me go back to try something else.

Part of the weird journey was that I was in a happy mood to go back and try their other side items.

I decided to get their Chicken Egg Drop Soup. To my memory, they didn't included the diced up chicken bits in the Egg Drop Soup. I think that was a good decision to added on because it makes this bowl of soup more heartier.

The big ominous surprise that I will say was the onigiri rice. It's their housemade rice ball that seasoned with ginger and garlic that is wrapped with nori seaweed. That to many looks unspectacular, but in this was the best thing to arrive to my mouth in a while. It doesn't contained spam or meat, yet I was extremely in peace after chomping on those two onigiri rice balls.

The lady that took my order on my ill-fated trip to ROW DTLA? That was the creative chef Kuniko Yagi. Once I found out she was the executive chef at SONA, I knew there was a reason why I wanted to make that trip to this Fried Chicken cafe in the first place.

Truth to be told, I think I was searching up Japanese Fried Chicken and internet kept pointing me to that chain in Sawtelle Blvd in West LA. I was glad to be pointed here instead.

If that fateful trip didn't turned out well, I probably would missed out on the terrific Golden Chicken Sandwich. Worse... I wouldn't have discovered their onigiri rice.

My pro tip, ordered their chicken tray and skipped the fries by getting the onigiri rice. That would be winner winner chicken dinner any time. Pff...I can't believed that phrase was typed.

Pikunico
767 Alameda Street Ste 122
Los Angeles, CA 90021

Friday, March 29, 2019

Worth The Wait in Long Lines at Howlin' Ray's












I'm ready for the new Star Wars ride at Disneyland Park coming soon in a few month.

I heard the Star Wars Galaxy Edge ride will be phenomenal with the state of the art effects and plenty of excitement that will satisfied everyone in the whole family. Just like that... so are about 200,000 people expected to come to the amusement park and wanting to get on that ride. Just like that a reservation system is on hand as you might need to be on a waiting list of over 10 hours just to get in line for that ride.

Untitled

Fear not folks, I got plenty of practice waiting in line this year. Good ol' Howlin' Ray's provides plenty of training for that long wait.

If you have not have heard of Howlin' Ray's, then you probably didn't have a pulse with LA food scenes or just hidden under the rock the past 3 years. Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to catch up once you see the line to buy one of their famous Nashville hot chicken.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Johnny Ray Zone when he first opened up his brick and mortar front after his sting of sling his chicken at his food truck. Funny part of the story was that he opened up this front in a plaza at Chinatown that was more known for souvenirs and imported Chinese goods. In the front of that Far East Plaza was abundance of Chinese BBQ takeouts and other Cantonese restaurants.

Medium
Medium Chicken

Time have changed obviously as there are more hip openings from a coffee shop (MIA), ice cream stand, a bao place from an east coast transplant, hip Taiwanese joint catered to the westerners, and an upscale version of Filipino restaurant all have opened up around the same time as Howlin' Ray's.

After seeing the restaurant gain popularity from local media and social media presence, the place blew up with long lines from young and old seeking this Nashville Hot chicken people have often heard, but never able to experience it unless you travel farther east. Surprised no one ever caught on to that as there are many options of different fried chickens in southern California, but never this variety. Nowadays, you can't turned around without some announcements of a new Nashville style hot chicken being offered up.

sandwiches
Medium (level 3) and Mild (Level 2) Chicken Sandwiches

What makes this place that popular for a long line? I guess it all starts with the chicken. There six different spice levels you can choose. I often settled between Mild (#2 on the hot scale) or Medium (a step up from Mild). You can go on a dare and try their Howlin', which was taste numbing, sweat inducing, and nosebleed crotch of a hot heat.

The smell of this heat can already make your eyes watery. Just by touching it will already leave that smell on your hand for hours. The nosebleed is not exaggeration for some of us as we are never able to muster through the whole breast or leg without feeling sniffle and the cries of mercy. Not sure it's pain or tears of joy, as eating Howlin' level can be both at the same time.

The thing I admired about the chicken and why I was waiting in line every quarterly was the fact the meat was juicy and the crispy skin was not flaking like a weak butter skin. I hated the water down skin you see from a certain well known chain. The meat was important, but the battered fried skin was one of the few things I enjoyed about Howlin' Ray's version of fried chicken.

When I first started coming here, the line was probably less than 20 minutes. Gradually as the words of mouth got out, it expands to 40 somewhat minutes. Then you know it got serious when it is over a hour. Then for some eff'd up reason, it now gets ridiculous at weeknight for 100 minutes. (I had been told the line can be 4 hours on weekend afternoon at times).

Whole Bird Medium
Whole Bird - Medium

For those might be getting discouraged, we heard expansion is coming. When there is more places opened up, dividing up the crowd to various different joints work. It is often a line killer. Remembered the first "Salt & Straw" opened up and there was a wait? With more locations, it destroyed that long wait. We are hoping this would be case as well for another Howlin' Ray's joint.

For me, I'm getting the hang of waiting in line and practicing in advance of the new Star Wars ride. Pro tips on waiting in line, get a few friends to wait with you. There is never a dull moment and the excitement can be heightened.

After waiting more than a hour, I still have favorable impression of the fried chicken.

Now as in for that wait for one ride...... let's hope it doesn't take up the whole day for one ride.

Howlin' Ray's
727 N Broadway #128
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Discovering Bougie Chinese BBQ in a RiceBox









Dang! It's been so long and I think I was just awoke from another long slumber.

I think I was trying to figure out how I can find more inspiration of writing more posts without being repetitive. In most cases, it flow fast out like a gush of water for a ride on Raging Waters. Other times it can be dormant like the past 4 months.

Luckily for today, I decided to make some trips down to downtown LA. I think was doing some weird errands and was planning to check out a restaurant nearby (Orsa & Winstons perhaps?). Then on a peak of my eyes, I saw a small take out place with a few tables in an arcade mall. 

Soy Sauce Chicken
Soy Sauce Chicken with Fried Egg

RiceBox is similar to what you find on a Cantonese BBQ place that serves a bevy of different meat proteins that prepares in Cantonese roasted style. Probably the most famous is the Char Siu, where the pork  or any meat is roasted on a long fork over a fire oven. There is also ingredient of sauce embedded on the meat to give that succulent taste and flavor.

While I was looking over the menu, I also happened to stumble upon the soy sauce chicken with bok choy that it was offered. Adding a fried egg on top seemed to be a bit bougie, but without a tea egg or hard boiled, I thought it would be suffice.

IMG_3873
OG Char Siu Pork with Fried Egg

While I was there, I might as well get their version of the "OG Char Siu Pork", which I gathered was honey glazed with the aroma of sweet smell from the slow cooked method.

Now of course, what makes me wanting to go to this nondescript place in middle of downtown for Chinese food? The place have a cute little tables set up for dine-in, but with a tight place like this, it probably managed a dozen people for the capacity. I highly support a place like this instead of glorified take out place that doesn't do justice.

For me, I had a good impression on a take on Cantonese BBQ in the middle of an area that seemed bustling with hip taco joints and divey bar actions. This bougie Chinese bento is a welcome sight. In a perfect world, this would be my kind of Chinese take out or delivery places. Love how they prep and present the rice bowl of either the succulent char siu pork or the soy sauce chicken.

Be prepared though to find parking. This place is great for that take out meals if you live around that area, but rough for destination travel meal. Hope they decide to open late for that late night snoosh after the last call.

That to me would be perfect.

RiceBox
541 S Spring St Ste 131
Los Angeles, CA 90013