Tonkotsu Ramen @ Daikokuya, West Los Angeles. This bowl of ramen contends for the best bowl of ramen that I’ve ever tasted. I still have a strong allegiance to Ramen Dojo in San Mateo, but Daikokuya is equally sublime, if not a bit more simple. The perfectly-cooked egg reveals a keen attention to detail, and the broth is amazingly good. I ate ramen almost every day when I was in Los Angeles, but this bowl (my first of the trip) really resonated with me, and it continues to do so.
I’ve finally uploaded my photos from my trip to Los Angeles earlier this month. It’s a little strange to go back to a place where I once lived for about 10 years, now that it’s also been about 10 years since I’ve lived there. Though the city’s main infrastructure remains familiar, the details have become a bit different over time. Sure, I still know most of the workarounds and shortcuts when it comes to L.A. traffic, but I don’t know any of the newer restaurants. It’s like knowing how to get places, but not knowing exactly where to go.
Before my trip, I had outlined a list of about 10 old favorites that I couldn’t bear to pass up, must-eat destinations like Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles, Paco’s Tacos and Chili John’s. Initially, I thought this list would prove to be a daunting agenda for a five-day trip, and I figured that I might become so consumed with nostalgic visits that I probably wouldn’t have much time to investigate any new restaurants. Of course, I had been underestimating myself. As it turns out, with five full days in Los Angeles, I can eat plenty. And I did.
If you follow my Instagram feed (or if you follow my Facebook page), then you’ve probably seen a few previews for this post. Unlike those cellphone pics, however, I snapped these photos “offline” with my DSLR camera, and that’s why it’s taken me so long to post them. It’s finally the super hi-res food porn that you’ve been waiting for. Click on any photo for the insanely large version. Enjoy!
The Godmother (with The Works) @ Bay Cities Deli & Bakery, Santa Monica. The key to this iconic sandwich is its blistered-up roll, which is baked in-house. It’s this proprietary element that guarantees that the Godmother cannot ever be duplicated, and the reason why the line at Bay Cities can be ridiculous during peak hours. The interior of the Godmother is an amalgam of glorious Italian flavors, pickles and peppers mingling with cured meats and plenty of mustard and mayo.
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The Tacos with Cheese @ Tito’s Tacos, West Los Angeles. Tito’s was one of my earliest favorites and definitely one of the things I had eaten the most of when I lived in Los Angeles. Eating there takes me back 20 years, and for a moment, I can even forget that I don’t live in Los Angeles anymore. Tito’s remains so familiar to me, even years later, that it will always connect me to the Westside.
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Tsukemen Ramen @ Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle, West Los Angeles. Profound flavors abound in this deconstructed version of ramen, the broth of which combines a rich pork stock with scallops and whitefish. The flavors are mind-blowing, and the broth is almost sauce-like in consistency, while the noodles are fatter and more tender than most conventional ramen. The noodles are dressed and eaten. This “dipping ramen” is the ramen 2.0 of the moment — apparently the next sub-trend — though tonkotsu-style ramen will always be my favorite, no matter what. That being said, I’ll be sure to try Tsujita’s tonkotsu ramen the next time I return.
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The King Size Fish and Chips @ King’s Head Pub, Santa Monica. This restaurant is one of the vestiges of the Third Street Promenade as I first knew it. During the early dotcom boom, I was fortunate to work in an office on the Promenade, which was a killer location at that time; lunch offered so many different options back in those days, since the Promenade was robust with unique restaurants. As one might imagine, a mid-day session at the King’s Head usually meant for a pretty unproductive afternoon.
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The Falafel Pita @ Falafel King, Westwood. If I thought the Third Street Promenade had taken a turn for the worse, Westwood was even more dismal in my eyes. The area has been stripped and purged of its charm over the last 20 years, and the neighborhood seems vaguely dismal and unfamiliar to me now. Westwood is now full of mediocre chain restaurants that you can find most anywhere else, including the frozen section of your local supermarket. I had a scare when I tried to go to Falafel King, and I discovered that Five Guys now occupies their old storefront. I already think that Five Guys sucks, and I was convinced that corporate fast food had run one of my old favorites out of Westwood. I was disgusted. Luckily, I turned around and noticed that Falefel King had simply moved across the street. Keep on keeping on, Falafel King.
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The Cuban Roast Pork @ Versailles, Los Angeles. This restaurant was my first stop in Los Angeles (my original thought was to visit Tito’s, but just as I was pulling in to park, I realized I didn’t have any cash). The pork at Versailles is tangy with citrus and garlic — an apt counterpoint to the wonderfully sweet plantains that garnish the plate.
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Pork Cutlet @ Hurry Curry of Tokyo, West Los Angeles. I enjoyed plenty of meals along Sawtelle Boulevard during my trip, and Hurry Curry was actually my last meal in the city, a quick last stop on my way to LAX. Compared to Indian curry, I feel that Japanese curry remains relatively unknown in the United States, but I think it’s a fantastic dish. What’s not to like about a crispy, panko-crusted pork cutlet, smothered in a rich, slightly sweet, spicy curry sauce?