Monday, May 28, 2012

Jeon Ju

2716 Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA

First off, many thanks to J. Gold for one of his last articles at LAWeekly, "60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know".   I've referred to this article several times before heading over to K-Town. It led me to Jeon Ju for bibimbap, now I'm a repeat customer. I lived at the Dubarry in Koreatown for years, and never got to know the culinary landscape of the neighborhood the way I am getting to know it now. It helps that my husband loves Korean food and is always game to try a new hole in the wall or AYCE BBQ spot.  

K-Town is intense. Its heavy population density houses Korean families and the young partying set as well as plenty of Latinos and young hipsters who can't quite afford the rents in Los Feliz and Silverlake. Koreatown has the largest concentration of 24-hour businesses in all of California. That coupled with the number of busy drinking establishments makes it the perfect spot for a walkabout night on the town. We end up here at least once a month bouncing from place to place, meeting people, snacking and occasionally getting sucked into a karaoke room with someone we just met. Good times, folks.

Jeon Ju is a very casual little spot, open from lunch through to dinner, no booze. I've also ordered food to-go, pleased with the variety of banchan they pack in individual little containers in your plastic bag of deliciousness. I do kind of wonder how restaurants will deal with the new plastic bag ban in LA county. Will restaurants be subject to the ban? Wet take away food and leakages make paper bags seem nonsensical. I bird-walk. The banchan here is yummy. My favorites are the gelatinous white cubes with sesame sauce and the purple rice cakes two dishes over. Of course, I love kimchee in all its forms.

Bibimbap is a rice dish with a variety of vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, sprouts, mushrooms, cucumbers, carrots and I assume whatever might be on hand in the fridge. Possible proteins include an egg, beef, various fish, squid, pork, etc. Bibimbap has been a traditional Korean dish for a couple hundred years. A recipe for bibimbap is found in Siuijeonseo, an anonymous Korean cookbook from the late 19th century, considered the resource for researching traditional Korean foods.

This trip, D and I both ordered the Dor Sot bibimbap with beef...dolsot bibimbap comes sizzling in a stone bowl and continues to cook the entire time you are eating. Toward the bottom of the bowl, the rice is a solid crunchy mass with a satisfying crispiness. I like to add plenty of the umami-spicy hot sauce gochujang, then stir the veggies, seaweed, egg and beef around til it's completely mixed together and everything gets a chance to sizzle a little. The second best thing to eating from that sizzling stone pot is eating the leftovers later that same afternoon at home on the couch.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sunday Brunch Happiness: Bacon and Eggs Cups

There are blog posts about these little lovelies all over the Internet. Here is my own personal spin on a quick and easy weekend breakfast favorite chez FST.

Par cook bacon about 2 minutes, then line each muffin hole with one slice bacon. I use turkey bacon usually, but any bacon is good bacon in my opinion. Use a small coffee cup to cut out circles of bread to stuff down into the bottom of each hole. Here we have rye bread, we always have rye bread. But with bacon, egg and cheese any bread should be fine. Sometimes I make these with no bread.Plop in a little cheese. This particular Sunday I used tiny chunks of brie; I've also been known to use chevre, cheddar, whatever! Scramble eggs. Roughly one egg for each cup, or you can plop the egg unscrambled right into the pan. Scrambling gives you the opportunity to add more flavors, a little dairy, green onions, chipotle salt. It does use another bowl that you will later have to wash while wearing your pajamas. Just saying.

Once filled, put pan in 375˚ for about 20 minutes.

Ta da!
1829 West Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

Arami is publicized in a few places as one of the top sushi spots in Chicago. It was in our price point for the weekend (unlike Katsu) and I liked the things I read about Arami. Simple, clean sushi with a few signature dishes. No white washed college neighborhood metarolls. C, D and I gave it a Sunday evening whirl. We showed up with large appetites and deep thirst.

The much hailed Toro Tartar Bite. Toro, chive, Asian pear, caviar and house soy sauce. These are a nice opener, luscious but not overpowering.

Oysters of the day; a little chili, yuzu and salmon roe. You had me at yuzu.

This is the type of thing I normally avoid, but it was on my little mental list of "to try" items. Togarashi seared tuna with seaweed and a Meyer lemon dressing. It is nice and the creaminess wasn't overwhelming, but I don't think I would order it twice. Bear in mind, many would disagree.

This is where Arami excels. Beautifully cut fish partnered with subtlety. Hamachi with tiny mushrooms, a trace of truffle oil and radish sprouts. The truffle oil didn't overpower the flavor or velvety texture of the hamachi, the mushroom complemented and the the sprouts counterbalanced. Loved this.

Simple tuna maki. Crisp, warm nori.

Hamachi nigiri, a different cut.

Spicy tuna roll. This was an oopsie in the service.

Spicy hamachi maki. D used to hate hamachi. As his taste for sushi has evolved he has grown into a hamachi lover. Oopsie number two.

Shiro anago, white eel nigiri. I had never tried this (that I can recall, hello sake). It is beautiful, a quiet experience compared to unagi with kabayaki sauce. Yes, I know kabayaki is a method of prep for the eel we commonly eat in more run-of-the-mill sushi joints. But when I need that sauce, the one that covers the eel in savory sweetness, I buy kabayaki sauce in a little plastic bottle at Woori.

Spicy tuna I-don't-know-what. Oopsie number three.

The food was good. As you can see, not quite what I would call simplicity but almost. Definite nods at sushi trends for the masses without pandering. However, the service issues were plentiful enough that I wouldn't return. I made reservations many weeks in advance for an early dinner. Despite this (and a half full restaurant) we were ushered to the back patio, alone. Additionally, it appeared that our server was new. S/he consulted many times with another server working the front room. S/he was unfamiliar with sushi terminology. This is an issue when you order a spicy tuna hand-roll and it comes back as maki. You explain the mistake and it happens again with the spicy hamachi.  I wondered to myself if a hand-roll is colloquial to California sushi eaters until the "experienced" server came back to the patio, apologized and offered to order proper hand-rolls as well. By then we were full and ready to continue our foot bound journey back north. But I wasn't pleased with the service experience. Especially in a restaurant so bally-hoo'd.

 Luckily tonight I can head to Shibucho right down the street for sublime sushi and service. Yes, we might be a little spoiled.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Tastes: Cliff's Edge Mother's Day Weekend

It's been awhile since my press dinner at Cliff's Edge.  Having followed Chef Bailly from Petrossian to Fraiche, I was thrilled to have him in my own neighborhood. Also thrilled to see Silver Lake adopt a chef of note to add some polish to a neighborhood spot.  Since the press dinner I have been in three times with various folks to try more things on the menu, and my initial assessment holds true. Bailly elevates the menu with delicious dishes across the board retaining the same Mediterranean focus and approachable atmosphere. Three items from an al fresco pre-Mother's Day dinner.

Grilled pears, burrata, pomegranate vinaigrette.

Mom had the flat iron steak with arugula, basil, bleu cheese and a tomato panzanella. D has ordered this a couple times, it's a favorite.

Seared scallops, lebne, cauliflower, vadouvan, and a verde sauce.

A few tried and true items from the menu: chick pea fritters, chicken liver crostini, smoked trout rillettes, the skate wing (my favorite). Something new this week that I am continuing to obsess over is the crispy polenta with fried egg and mushrooms.  Try any and all of this with the Duende the glass or bottle.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Walkabout in Chicago March 2012

Funny how you get busy in life and work. Look up and it's been months since you've blogged despite the many fun experiences in your mental tank and camera just waiting to be re-explored. In March I visited my great friend C in her home town; she took me on several long walking tours during the four day weekend. Friday, we left the Water Tower neighborhood and rambled toward the Art Institute.

Crossing the Chicago River.

Early modernism; me of a zipper.

A beautiful early spring day. Blue skies, mild temps and the wind died down as we headed southward.

Fell in love with the Rock of Gibraltar relief by Alfonso Iannelli, who also worked on  Midway Gardens with Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

The L.

Later that same weekend, walking northward from Water Tower toward Lincoln Park and Old Town.

C's parents live in the oldest standing neighborhood in Chicago. It managed to escape ruin during The Chicago Fire of the 1870's.

Even later that same weekend, as our time draws to a close.

Under the L.

We walked westward through trendy Wicker Park on Easter Sunday, shopping and noshing and sipping and chatting and gesticulating, even.

The mild winter and early spring had set the lilacs in bloom, which left this lilac lover shocked but not paralyzed. Lilacs in March? WTF! This is a Kodak moment, brought to you by iPhone.

Books. I could see myself inside this room. And I think the projection of myself as a Chicagoan was facilitated by the enjoyable weather. Realistically, Chicago weather scares me.

The last gasp of evening light, before dinner and the inevitable walk back to the hotel to pack and prep for Monday's flight.