Friday, August 16, 2019

The Most Unique Restaurant at Firehouse Hotel












It's difficult to find a place to live in Los Angeles. Shoot!..it's even more difficult to find the right location for a business. It's all about the location when you're talking a restaurant.

That's why it was so fascinating to see when a group of entrepreneurs decided to open up a place in the heart of Art District near the packing district. A firehouse was being remodeled into a boutique hotel with a cute outdoor patio restaurant and a bar in where a fire engine used to park at.

Firehouse Hotel

Here's the weird part, a firehouse that was left vacant for nearly 3 decades from being used as an active firehouse got remodeled into a full service 9-rooms boutique hotel on the top level with a restaurant underneath the rooms. I never did reserved a room, but I always want to see what the rooms looks like as many pointed out the rooms are "Instagram worthy", while remains for a staycation for some.

Patio

That early evening was a weird event as we were a few doors down from Bestia, but wanted a nightcap and stopped by BonTemps to keep the evening going. Right next door was this firehouse that has their own valet. Curiously, we all wanted to see commotion as we all thought it was an event space that is being used for parties.

Private Room

Checking out the cool vibes of their patio seating for that intimate setting or their private dining room in the courtyard gave the place this elegant and very chic look. There were plenty of outdoor tables and a few indoor seatings next to the bar as it looked to accommodate about a good sized capacity of about 100 guests for dining.

Beef Carpaccio
Beef Carpaccio

With a few things in mind, some of us decided to come back to this restaurant to check out the New American dishes on the menu. We have heard the head chef was very distinguished and was from well known restaurants in New York and worked briefly in the much hyped Nomad Hotel in LA. The most exciting thing about our visit was to check out this reimagined decor of a restaurant from a former firehouse.

Grilled Branzino
Grilled Branzino

One of the more recommended dish we wanted to try based on the praises posted on various online sites was the Grilled Branzino that was highly mentioned. Love the dishes we had ordered, especially the grilled branzino. The interesting part we noticed was that there was a wood fired grill employed in the kitchen as you can get some of the aroma of the dishes. Some of the buttery dishes really stood out when it was off the grill and ready to be served to the diners.

Cheesecake

Quite possibly, this boutique hotel can be used a stand in for a high fashion clothing store as the hotel lobby stationed in front of the restaurant and hotel check-in gave it that chic nuance look to the fashion dissonance.

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There are a lot of things to like about FireHouse Hotel. It can be a classy night out on the town or a very nice date night atmosphere for suggested place for an unique dining experience.

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For me, I still want to visit the hotel for that overnight staycation.

FireHouse Hotel
710 Santa Fe Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90021


Friday, August 9, 2019

Finding The Right Comfort at Alta Adams












Southern Comfort Food has always fascinated me.

Not quite certain was I am thinking of the movie "My Cousin Vinny" in that I must go find grits. Somehow because of this craving after watching that movie, I wanted to see if there are grits to be found. Of course I found a place, but not what I originally had in mind.

front of the place

Alta, the original place in San Francisco was a popular group of American style casual restaurants that served some of the "creative" dishes of the locales with some inventive craft cocktails. There were a few outposts of those restaurants that mainly capitalized on the seafood in that region (Oakland & SF). 

Blacked Eyes Pea Fritters
Blacked Eye Pea Fritters

When they decided to open an Alta restaurant down in southern California, I was somewhat skeptical because of the fact it's more inland and away from the beach area cities. Then a curve ball was thrown in when they decided to have a more soul food based cuisines and hired one of the more accomplished Chef in Keith Corbin (worked in several Michellin's stars restaurants) to hone a more southern food type concept on the menu.

It was interesting that it opened towards the Baldwin Hills area, that is nearby to Culver City. With the swanky looking bar that served crafted cocktails, it fits the mantra of other Alta restaurants that are described. I noticed the restaurant also gather the locals who are looking for that cool night out on the town. With this kind of concept, it does need the support of the fan base who enjoyed this type of comfort food and was happy to see it can find the audience who are willing to travel.

Shrimps & Grits
Shrimps & Grits


When I decided to go get the Shrimp & Grits, I instantly was smitten by creamy and rich texture of this grinded cornmeal that turns out to a great dinner. When I was growing up I was thinking this would be perfect for breakfast (thinking of congee).

There is one dish that gets judged no mater what... the Fried Chicken.

Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

When I was thinking of southern fried chicken, the Colonel ruined it for me with their extra crispy version. To my joy, the Alta's version is not heavily battered and the chicken skin was fried to taste like it should. The seasonings and spices were the key of essential ingredients of having the flavors of the chicken be enhanced.

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Besides the cocktails, the other must ordered items were the Black Eyed Peas Fritters many have raved about. The cornbread was the one that I missed out on, but I was heavily influenced on must getting that Shrimps & Grits, that I totally forgot to order this.

This casual (but in a way classy) is perfect for a night out on the town. Love the chef's take on some of these classic comfort food. With so many options in this part of town for southern food, this was a delightful eye opener for me to come into this part of town (after being told it's revitalized to have more hip options).

After passing by a few dress windows, I saw a red-brownish suit. Classic Uncle Vinny suit

Alta Adams
5359 W Adams Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90016

Friday, April 19, 2019

Get a Pizza Named After You at Roberta's











New York Pizzeria has always been my goal to visit. In New York of course.

The unfortunate part of my life was that I got to DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) region in the east coast, but never made it up north to partake on some of the legendary status the pizza in new york are known for.

Something to tell me that things are about to be changed in Culver City.

There was an interesting shopping & dining enclave called The Platform that opened up not too long ago. This unique plaza that sits in front of a cul-de-sac on both of this dead end street, not far from Downtown Culver City where all of the happening places are at. When the Platform was opened up, there were quite a few upscale eateries and a renown boba joint ushered in this opening.

Bee's Sting
Bee's Sting

Then a series of events leads to a closing of one of their fine establishment which sits empty for a short time being. In a twist that no one see coming, a popular Brooklyn pizzeria decided to do a few pop-ups (limited dining engagements) in that empty space on a prime location of that said plaza.

That restaurant is the ever popular Roberta's.

Roberta's is often associated by many east coast transplant for their take on the classic pizzas on the Wood Fire oven. There are plenty of pastas and wood fired vegetables that are assembled in the menu, but it's their classic stables of pizza that they are known for.

Crispy Glover
Crispy Glover

After a few test runs that often garnered adulation, many still think it was short lived as there was no news of a tenant filling in for that desired spot that is in the middle of the action. So it came as a surprised that Roberta's decided to make a permanent stay after the pop-ups for that location.

The spot has a beautiful patio set that looking in a newly modeled the courtyard by the middle of that plaza. In a stunning development, they retain some of the chic decor, where their Brooklyn counterpart was more rustic and homely feel. In a cute plot, they have a make shift take out counter by the side of the building (it has since been discarded).

The most well known pizza was their honey infused with the soppressata toppings that is aptly called the Bee Sting. There was also many pop culture referenced named pizza that seemed to rotate pies  named after some of the most pseudo celebrities you'll heard of. I even got one named after Marty McFly's dad.

For me, I finally get to experience a dough that everyone has been talking about. Some people do not like the char, but this black mark gives character to a pizza. It does make a different coming from wood fire pizza oven versus the deck oven you often see in your local pizzeria. Also for variety of different meat and cheese you get to try on their boards. This would give you an idea on the pizza would be like with those ingredients commingled with the dough.

For me, I definitely would get the Bee's Sting of mozzarella, chili, basil, tomato, and the aforementioned Honey and Soppressata. That pizza still resonates with me as of this day. I think they rotate the ingredients and come up with clever name for the week for the pop cultural referenced pizzas. If there's one that interests me, I might go for it if they have Red Hot Chili Pepper-oni.

I know I know... knowing my luck, they'll jack that from me.

Roberta's
8810 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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